The Washington Capitals have a big decision to make heading into their season opener on Wednesday night. If Nicklas Backstrom is unable to play against the New York Rangers, which appears likely, who will center the third center spot in his absence: Connor McMichael or Hendrix Lapierre? Both prospects are accomplished outside the NHL and their performances during this year’s preseason make them both worthy of the spot.
Lapierre earned the final start of the preseason in the position after McMichael had his opportunity to center Conor Sheary and TJ Oshie Wednesday against the Bruins.
Oshie seems particularly enamored with Lapierre and threw a lot of praise towards the French Canadian prospect after the Capitals’ 5-3 victory over the Flyers, Friday.
“He’s super talented young kid,” Oshie said. “Awesome, awesome, awesome guy. He’s fun to be around. He’s smiling in the locker room. You can tell he’s really enjoying himself. He’s working hard. He’s very interested in learning from players, from coaches.
“I’ve played with him a couple times now and tonight, I felt like our chemistry was building,” he added. “We just didn’t capitalize on a couple of plays that could have ended in good chances. A lot of turnovers, unfortunately, but the plays were there. We just needed to execute. I think he’s just going to get better and better and it really is really fun playing with him.”
Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette also voiced his happiness with Lapierre during his final preseason game of the year.
“Lappy made plays,” Laviolette said. “He’s a smart, creative player. You can see it in the way he plays the game. I thought that was line good. It was effective for us.”
Lapierre started the preseason with four points in his first two games. He ended it tied with Caps star Evgeny Kuznetsov for the most points on the team (5) and finished tied for fourth in the NHL in total assists (5).
Lapierre’s made a lot of fast friends on the team, including Trevor van Riemsdyk, as evidenced by the below mid’d up video, and 2021 pick Vincent Iorio.
“Guys had good showings for us,” Laviolette said. “It’s a good situation to be in. Now we just have to make those decisions on where we’re going to go.”
Headline photo: Elizabeth Kong/RMNB
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