Connor McMichael looks to be a lock for Team Canada’s roster for the 2021 World Junior Championship. The Canadians, who will play their first game on December 26, will try to repeat as champions for the first time since 2009 when they won five consecutive gold medals.
Earlier this week, McMichael, 19, spoke to TSN’s Mark Masters about this year’s team and about his life-changing experiences over the last year. McMichael participated in two separate training camps with the Washington Capitals and joined the team in the Toronto bubble for the playoffs.
McMichael was particularly amazed by future Hall of Famer Alex Ovechkin.
“His shot is so hard, it’s so accurate, it comes off his stick so quick,” McMichael said to Masters on Zoom. “Honestly, in practice, I was in love with just watching him shoot the puck and after practice, he’d be taking some one-timers and I’d be able to stop and stare and it was pretty cool being around him.”
McMichael said he’s tried to be a sponge and learn as much as he can from other players, but he’s limited when it comes to Ovi.
“I try to pick little things from everyone, but there’s not much I can pick from his game because he’s unbelievable,” McMichael said.
On his first impressions of The Great 8, McMichael said, “He’s a lot bigger in person. He’s big on TV, but then you see him in person and he’s just a beast. The way he uses his body and everything, he’s just an all-around great player. I was kind of shocked about how thick and how big he was.”
During his time in camp, McMichael was mentored by Capitals’ first-line center Nicklas Backstrom. McMichael was impressed by how smart of a hockey player Backstrom is. Not only does Connor hope to play with the Swede in the NHL, but he may also replace him later in his career if he continues his rapid development.
“Just how smart he is, his hockey sense,” McMichael said when asked about what impressed him the most about Backstrom. “He’s not the biggest guy, but he’s able to get around just using his hockey sense and his stick and that’s kind of the game I play. I’m not the biggest guy, but I feel like I have great hockey sense and a good stick so I’m trying to pick a lot of things from his game. He’s just so responsible and all the coaches trust him, so that’s kind of the game I’m leaning towards and he’s a great role model.”
During the offseason, the Capitals’ top prospect has been working to become an even better goal scorer. McMichael scored 47 goals in 52 games last season — good for third best in the league — and had six hat tricks .
“I work on my shot a lot,” McMichael said. “I use a little more deception in my hands to fool goalies and maybe look one way and shoot the other way. I watch some NHL clips with our coaching staff here in London and they show me the best goal scorers in the league and how they do it, so I try and pick apart every player and use that. I think it’s mostly your hand placement or your eye placement, you got to try and fool goalies.”
McMichael cited Auston Matthews’s shiftiness as something he’d like to integrate into his game.
“Like, his curl and drags, his deception with his shot, he’s unbelievable,” McMichael said. “He’s able to beat goalies before they move so … I love watching his clips.”
Headline photo: Cara Bahniuk/RMNB
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