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Laviolette on Capitals Returning Lapierre To QMJHL: ‘It’s Not A Negative That We Sent Him Back’



Capitals forward Hendrix Lapierre

Hendrix Lapierre was up for six games with the Washington Capitals, and in that small span, he made quite the impact before heading back to the QMJHL’s Acadie-Bathurst Titan — especially on head coach Peter Laviolette.

Laviolette reflected on No. 29’s time up with the Capitals after the team sent him back to juniors on Wednesday.

“I think his time here was really well spent. He did a really good job. He came in in training camp and while it’s always an option and it’s always possible for anybody to come in and make the team, you really have to do the right things in the practices and in the scrimmages and the exhibition games to actually have a chance to make the team,” Laviolette said. “And you know, once we knew Nick Backstrom might not be there for us, we started looking at the centermen and we had our eyes open and he came in and he gave us some really good minutes and he did a really good job.”

Lapierre was a vocal leader and standout at the team’s annual rookie camp and then hit the ground running at main training camp. He carried that momentum into game action, dishing five assists in five preseason games.

RELATED: Lapierre Discusses Excelling Past Injuries, Positive Mentality Finding Love For Hockey

It was enough for him to not only make the opening night roster but earn a spot in the lineup for the team’s season opener against the New York Rangers. He scored his first NHL goal in that game, fittingly on a pass from mentor T.J. Oshie.

“You look back at this year and you think about what a great thing. What a great year for a kid and to be able to come in and to have a good training camp at the NHL level, to make the team and make the opening night roster, to score a big goal the way he did in his first game with his parents in the building and to stay on our team and to work in and out of the lineup and every day in practice and to be around guys on what it takes to be a pro and what it takes to play in the National Hockey League,” Laviolette noted. “We’ve got some great examples in here and he had great linemates to learn from and all of that is excellent.”

However, with Connor McMichael and more call-ups like Aliaksei Protas drawing in and more injuries striking, Lapierre found himself out as a healthy scratched and suited up for just six of 12 games to open the year with Washington, registering a goal, seven shots and three takeaways while winning roughly 28 percent of his face-offs.

Taking that into account, the Capitals wanted him to continue to get more development and therefore, sent him back to juniors. There, he can not only continue building his game but also get more ice time and opportunity to play in games and take on a bigger role.

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This is also a fiscally responsible move, as Washington will preserve the first year of his entry-level deal, which would have been eaten if he played 10 games at the NHL level this year.

“It’s a lot for a young player to I think to handle the NHL and the league itself. And so we sent him back to juniors where he can play against his peers and you know, who knows what happens from here, whether he gets a chance to play in the world championships and whether he gets a chance to play in playoffs. If all those things could happen, you think about his year and it’s really in a great spot,” Laviolette explained. “It’s not a negative that we sent him back. We just felt it was time for a young player that, where it’s very difficult to crack a league that’s made of grown men, it’s difficult and yet he did such a fantastic job that we had to keep him and we had to keep looking at him and he helped us.”

In the end, Lapierre is on the right track going forward and accomplished the goals he set for himself coming into the year. He not only made the opening night roster but reassured Washington that they made the right choice in the 2020 NHL Draft. Scouting reports indicated Lapierre could be a “top-10 talent,” but his draft stock dropped amid neck and head traumas. In just a couple of weeks, Lapierre has erased any doubt about him. Even better, he made his mark at the NHL level, earning respect from his teammates, the coaching staff, the front office and the fanbase.

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This will be Lapierre’s first time with his new QMJHL in Acadie-Bathurst after the Chicoutimi Saguenéens traded him to the Titan over the offseason. Laviolette’s hope is that he can adapt to his new club and take a lot away from “playing against his peers” and “really trying to take what he got here” and translate that to the junior level.

“He helped us off to the start that we had that we got off to this year. We’re really really happy with him and what he did and what he was able to do,” Laviolette said. “We think it’s good that he goes back now and he plays and gets a ton of confidence and a ton of ice time and continues to develop in that way as well… it was a great start to his season, we’re really happy with what he did here and you know we’re looking forward to the time when he does return to us.”

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