On Thursday, the Washington Capitals made their first round of cuts from Training Camp. The Capitals’ first round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft (25th overall), Connor McMichael, was one of the players cut, despite impressing the organization with his play.
“I liked him a lot [in Sunday’s] inter-squad game, made a couple really good plays,” head coach Todd Reirden said to the AP’s Stephen Whyno. “For him, it’s about the maturity and whether the right decision is for him to continue to stay here or [keep] going with his junior career and continue to build on what he did last year. All those type of things go into the equation of when to let those guys go back and play or continue to keep them here and an opportunity to stay here.”
When asked about the competition for 3rd line center with Kuznetsov out(assuming Eller moves up to 2nd), Reirden did not dismiss the possibility of Connor McMichael.
— JJ Regan (@JJReganNBCS) September 16, 2019
McMichael finished the recent three-game Prospect Showcase tournament with a goal and an assist. The London Knights center notched a stunning no-look assist on Damien Riat’s goal during the Capitals preseason opener against the Chicago Blackhawks.
“McMichael is excellent with the puck,” Reirden said. “His offensive reads and feel for the game has been very strong for a young player so far.”
McMichael also put up some solid numbers on the faceoff dot for an 18-year-old, finishing the night with five out of 10 won, with most of those being won cleanly.
Forward Chandler Stephenson even remarked that McMichael’s style of hockey reminded him of Nicklas Backstrom.
“He just sees the game and sees plays before they happen,” Stephenson said of McMichael to the AP. “It just seems like he has a really good hockey IQ for an 18-year-old. He sees the ice really well.”
McMichael hasn’t been afraid to show off with a little flash and skill either, as evidenced in Wednesday’s preseason win over the St. Louis Blues, where he attempted a shot through his legs to beat goaltender Jordan Binnington.
Connor McMichael is out here trying to score semi-breakaway goals through the legs. Dude's got some stones. pic.twitter.com/LWDhwpA7AE
— Ian Oland (@ianoland) September 19, 2019
With McMichael heading back to the OHL, where he plays under former Capitals and current London Knights head coach Dale Hunter, there are certain areas that he can improve before returning to challenge for a permanent place on the Caps roster.
“He’s got to get his body a little stronger, but you can see his potential,” Hunter said of McMichael’s potential. “The top end is untapped yet. He’ll get better and better.”
Before being loaned back to London, McMichael remained realistic about his areas for development and where he currently stood with the team.
“Obviously I’m one of the young guys here, so they want to see me develop more and just get stronger and harder on the puck,” McMichael said. “They like my game overall, so just keep playing how I’ve been playing and I should be fine.”
We have no doubt that we will be seeing McMichael back with the team in the not-so-distant future.
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