Nicklas Backstrom’s hip injury will likely keep the Super Swede out of Capitals Training Camp and the start of the regular season. It’s the poorest kept secret that Backstrom’s Opening Night roster spot is up for grabs.
There are really only two names being considered to take that spot. Connor McMichael or Hendrix Lapierre.
And apparently, they are super friends.
“It’s cool, we both have an opportunity with Backy being out for now,” a chill McMichael said after practice on Sunday. “I think it’s a big opportunity for both of us and we’re pushing each other hard. Just skating with the big group every day, it’s been good for both of us and I’m looking forward to the competition we might have.”
At this point of camp, the Capitals have fully separated their “NHL guys” into one group and their “AHL guys” into another. McMichael and Lapierre are the last holdover forwards from the prospect pool still involved with the NHL veterans.
“He’s a great kid,” McMichael added, commenting on Lapierre. “It’s a really healthy relationship. Me and him talk every day. We don’t really talk about what’s going on, on the ice. He’s a great kid, we get along well, we’re having a lot of fun.”
Both McMichael and Lapierre played against the Devils Monday night in the Capitals’ fourth preseason game of the year. It’s their third game overall.
At this point in time, the younger Lapierre appears to be ahead of Connor for the final roster spot as he leads the team in preseason scoring with four points in two games and has taken drills before McMichael in practice. McMichael has yet to find the scoresheet points-wise in his first two games.
“We just try to push each other…It’s a really healthy competition.” — Hendrix Lapierre on fellow rookie Connor McMichael. Both are hoping to make the #Caps’ opening night roster. pic.twitter.com/qtTk0Aogaq
— Tarik El-Bashir (@Tarik_ElBashir) October 2, 2021
“We’ve got a really good relationship,” a happy Lapierre said on Saturday. “We don’t really talk about [our competition] but I think we kinda know in the back of our heads that maybe it will come down to this. We just try to push each other every day. You know we did a play in practice and both said to each other ‘good play, good play’, so it’s a really healthy competition. He’s a tremendous hockey player so I’m sure it will be a good battle and we’ll see what happens.”
Tom Wilson, who was once in the very same shoes as McMichael and Lapierre, believes the competition between the two Canadian youngsters has raised the veteran team’s competitive level in camp.
“It’s fun to see the energy, and you need that in your group,” Wilson said of the talented pair. “I remember when I came in it was so much fun and you try to just be the kid. You don’t need to grow up too fast. Obviously, it’s your job, and you want to produce and stuff like that, play well, but it’s such a fun job. You get to come to the rink with the guys every day. When we have those young guys coming in I think it reminds you of those days (where you) go back for a three-hour nap, play video games, go to the bar, whatever the guys do and everyone else is at home taking care of their families.”
Headline photo: Elizabeth Kong/RMNB
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