ARLINGTON, VA–Connor McMichael will make his first appearance in the Capitals’ preseason lineup on Thursday, but it won’t be his first time playing under head coach Spencer Carbery. The two spent a season together with the Hershey Bears in 2020-21 before Carbery left to take an NHL job with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Carbery’s emphasis on young players’ development should mesh well with McMichael, who spent nearly all of last year with Hershey after a full rookie season with the Capitals in 2021-22. Now reunited in Washington, McMichael and Carbery are continuing to build on a foundation established back in the AHL.
“I think when he was my coach, I think I had a good year,” McMichael said of Carbery. “He knows my game well and he knows what I’m capable of. So I think that’s just going to help me.”
McMichael will start the preseason at left wing on a line with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson. Though McMichael’s natural position is center, Carbery has expressed interest in seeing his potential on the wing.
“He’s a natural centerman but I want to see him play the wings,” Carbery explained. “So, early in camp he’s going to be over on the left side there and I want to see how that goes. I want to see him play some game action, some five-on-five.”
The 22-year-old McMichael had plenty of ups and downs under former Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette. He scored 18 points (9g, 9a) in 68 games with Washington his rookie year, but played only six games the following year. He spent most of the fall as a healthy scratch before eventually going back to Hershey in November. There, he played a vital role in the Bears’ Calder Cup run, scoring 10 points (6g, 4a) in the playoffs and opening the team’s scoring in Game Seven of the Finals.
Carbery noted that their previous time in Hershey would help him and McMichael work together in Washington. He also had plenty of praise for McMichael’s play, including the sort of intensity that led to that Game Seven goal.
“I think [our past relationship] matters,” he said. “Yeah, I do. Just relationship-based but also, we had a really good year together. I think he was our leading scorer, so I have a real good grasp on his game, what he does well, his strengths.
“And to be honest with you, like, I’ve told him this before: he’s a competitive guy. And he’s a gamer — and I’ll use that phrase a lot with y’all. I bet on gamers, man. When the chips are down and the game’s on the line, he wants the puck; he wants to be the guy. Players like that, I just find, find ways to have success in this league.”
McMichael will make his 2023-24 preseason debut against the Detroit Red Wings at 7 pm on Thursday.
Headline photo: Alan Dobbins/RMNB
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