The Washington Capitals ended their three-day rookie camp on Monday on a strong note. Connor McMichael, Hendrix Lapierre and Aliaksei Protas were among the standouts, while prospects Vinnie Iorio and Dru Krebs made the most of their first NHL camp.
Here are takeaways from the final day of action and camp as a whole.
McMichael, Lapierre Make Their Mark
With training camp around the corner, McMichael and Lapierre made sure to make their presence known and lead the way among their fellow prospects.
McMichael played with a lot of speed and strength. He also put on about six pounds of muscle over the summer, where he trained with Connor McDavid, Steven Stamkos and more NHLers at Gary Roberts Performance. Hershey Bears coach Scott Allen liked what he saw from the 20-year-old throughout camp and noticed a lot of growth.
“I think very highly of Connor McMichael, going from my time with him last year in Hershey and even these three days on the ice,” Allen said. “The biggest thing for any pro is consistency, and I think he learned a lot about that.”
Allen said that it’s up to McMichael in regards to whether or not he’s ready to make the jump to the Capitals roster.
Also capitalizing on his opportunity: Lapierre. The 2020 first-rounder shined on the ice, oozing confidence and showcasing his skill every chance he got. He’s grown more confident in his play, displaying a wicked shot, solid passing and good speed and skating. Lapierre also stepped up and was among the vocal leaders on the ice for Washington throughout camp.
“I’m ready to play… I really want to prove that I’m not only a junior player right now, that I can play at the next level,” Lapierre said. “I know it’s gonna be tough. It’s National Hockey League, there’s lots of really really good guys, but I mean, I have nothing to lose. So I just want to go for it and be the best player i can be and we’ll see what happens.”
Protas Continuing To Make Progress
Another player to keep an eye on going forward is Protas. The 6-foot-6 center said he is done growing and looked strong on the ice. He’s coming off a very strong season where he played the second-most games among all Capitals prospects. Protas played in the KHL before joining Hershey later in the season, and the plan for him is to lace ’em up with the Bears again and continue his transition to the North American game.
“That was totally different game for me, I needed to get used to it… you have to be ready every second to play in every battle,” Protas noted.
In the offseason, Protas worked on his skating, conditioning and strength. He also played in the Olympic Qualifiers for Belarus.
“We were so upset we lost. We lived the dream… we wanted to get there,” Protas said. “But that happened, so we got to go through that and just keep working and focus on our seasons.”
2021 Draft Picks, More Stand Out
Washington’s 2021 draft picks also shined in their own right. Iorio had a strong showing on the ice at his first camp, showing off his play in all three zones and moving the puck well. Krebs was another standout in my opinion; his skating was impressive, and he didn’t shy away from physicality and was able to stack up well against top prospects. Haakon Hanelt, the Capitals’ fifth-round selection in 2021, did not skate after not passing his physical.
Hunter Shepard, who signed a two-year deal with the Capitals in the offseason, impressed between the pipes. He came up big with a couple of acrobatic saves throughout camp and displayed good lateral movement and puck tracking. Kody Clark also looked solid and of course, was having a blast.
“Solid group of guys, they all work extremely hard,” Allen said. “We had small numbers, so we tried to put some things in that we could, get a little bit of a read on how they compete and how they battle, hockey sense and those types of things. I think all those things were impressive for us… what we saw in these last few days was certainly encouraging.”