Connor McMichael was drafted by the Washington Capitals 25th overall in June 2019. In the two years since, McMichael has had a bunch of success. He scored 47 goals and tallied 102 points in 52 OHL games during the 2019-20 OHL season, won a gold and silver medal with Canada during the 2020 and 2021 World Junior Championships respectively, led the Hershey Bears in points during the 2020-21 season, and made his NHL debut with the Capitals in January 2021.
Now Connor’s trying to push his way onto a contending team that has 12 veteran forwards under NHL contract.
It won’t be easy, but McMichael has put in the work to at least make the decision difficult on management.
“I had a really good offseason,” McMichael revealed to reporters, including RMNB, after Day 1 of Capitals Rookie Camp. The sessions feature 20 prospects and lasts through Monday. The skates are open to the public.
“I feel like I worked on my lower-body strength,” McMichael said. “I was able to protect the puck a lot more. Hopefully able to make the next jump. That’s one of the biggest things I need to work on is protecting the puck against bigger and stronger guys. I think I took big strides there and I’m looking to show it here in camp.”
McMichael trained with Gary Roberts at the former NHL star’s high-performance training camp. Roberts was a notoriously hard worker who was very careful what he put in his body during his NHL days.
“I did a lot of workouts that I normally don’t do before,” McMichael said. “Just some little things you’d pick up on. Nutrition. He fed us breakfast and lunch so that was a pretty sweet gig.
“I had some kale, some eggs. Just all the good stuff,” McMichael said laughing.
But it was being aound superstars like two-time Stanley Cup champion Steven Stamkos and fellow Connor Mc, Connor McDavid, that left a big impression on the Capitals’ top prospect. According to Connor, the superstars gave him tips here and there.
“It’s cool,” McMichael said. “Those guys are obviously good players and they’re still great players. Being on the same ice as them is pretty cool. Just watching those guys day in and day out, it’s cool to be around them and watch how they grow their game and pick up on little things from them in general.
“They’re more lead-by-example with how hard they work and what they do after skates. It benefitted me a lot.”
Over the summer, McMichael put on a lot of muscle — five or six pounds — after the Capitals told the young forward during his exit interview that they wanted to see him bulk up more. He’s confident where his overall skills are at, but believes the added muscle and strength would allow him to win more puck battles and stay on the puck at the NHL level.
“[The Capitals] are really confident in my game and they just think I need to get a little bit stronger,” McMichael said. “And I agree.
“I put on five or six pounds this summer. I think that’s a good weight for me. I still feel fast but I also feel stronger. It’s a good weight. Maybe fluctuate one or two pounds here and there.”
If McMichael doesn’t land a roster spot with the big club this fall, he will return to the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears where he dominated last season. But he’ll just be one injury or one call-up away from another big-league opportunity where he could stay for good.
Headline photo: Elizabeth Kong/RMNB
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