Connor McMichael was summoned from the hockey void on Thursday.
After completing a week-long quarantine, the Capitals’ 2019 first-round pick was assigned to the team’s taxi squad with Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov, and Ilya Samsonov placed on the COVID-19 unavailability list.
McMichael’s first skate of the year with his pro teammates went well, according to the top prospect. He joined line rushes as an extra.
“It was good to get out on the ice with the team again,” McMichael said after practice. “Get out of quarantine and get my legs moving again. I haven’t skated with a team since World Juniors so it was good to get back out there again.”
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) January 21, 2021
New head coach Peter Laviolette said that it was possible McMichael could jump into the lineup with Evgeny Kuznetsov out for the next four games, but that longtime minor-leaguer Brian Pinho “deserves an opportunity to go in and show what he can do.”
“[Connor]’s in the mix,” Laviolette said. “When you’re coming out of the quarantine, you haven’t been on the ice a whole bunch. He is a young player so we’ll try to get him acclimated to our group. He’s a centerman. We don’t have a lot of centermen in the lineup. With one being out of the lineup, it might create an opportunity for him. I think he probably won’t play [in the home opener], we’ll go with the lines we had [Thursday].”
He added, “McMichael got acclimated to the group. He got into a full practice [Thursday]. He can get his footing and start the process to being ready to play if we need him.”
McMichael dominated the OHL last season as an 18-year-old scoring 47 goals and tallying 102 points in 52 games. At this year’s World Juniors tourney, he was Canada’s top-line center and an alternate captain, posting four goals and eight points in seven games. Two Athletic analysts, Scott Wheeler and Corey Pronman, say that McMichael is ready to play at the NHL level.
Connor McMichael won't make his NHL debut tonight for the shorthanded #Caps, but he remains "in the mix" for a spot. @scottcwheeler and @coreypronman discuss the 2019 first rounder's readiness and how he could help ⬇️. https://t.co/JFWzMAAnji pic.twitter.com/0ZkhhSTeQ3
— Tarik El-Bashir (@Tarik_ElBashir) January 22, 2021
“I just talked to Lavy today,” McMichael said. “It was my first time meeting him. Obviously, with so much in the air, we don’t know what’s going to happen. He just told me to stay ready. Obviously, with guys going down, you never know what could happen so stay ready and work hard in practice and we’ll see what the outcome is.”
Even if he doesn’t end up playing in games, McMichael will likely stay in Washington for the next few weeks, at least, until the OHL figures out its 2020-21 season. League play is currently suspended indefinitely after originally targeting this week to open training camps.
Development for McMichael lately has mostly come off the ice. The 20-year-old has spent most of the last year in the gym, with little or no hockey to play. In a recent interview, McMichael told Tarik El-Bashir he has put on around 10 pounds of muscle.
Now, after being a dominant junior player, McMichael will try to force his way into the Capitals lineup. But it will take some adjusting.
During a drill Thursday, McMichael accidentally joined the defense and John Carlson had to point him where to go.
“Yeah, I’m still getting used to the way things work around here,” McMichael said laughing. “Guys like that will show me the ropes, but yeah, that was pretty funny.
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
All original content on russianmachineneverbreaks.com is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)– unless otherwise stated or superseded by another license. You are free to share, copy, and remix this content so long as it is attributed, done for noncommercial purposes, and done so under a license similar to this one.