The Capitals didn’t have the 2020 playoffs they hoped for, but now all focus will be on the 2020-21 season. The first offseason move comes in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, where the Capitals traded up to the 22nd overall pick and used it to select forward Hendrix Lapierre. While the Caps may have snagged the best name in the draft, only time will tell whether Lapierre was the right move.
Assistant GM Ross Mahoney stressed the team’s approach was going to take the “best player available.” That’s a seemingly obvious plan of action, especially for a team that has one of the lowest-ranked prospect pools in the NHL, but the Caps really took a swing for Lapierre, trading up from 24th to 22nd and giving up their third-round pick (80th overall) in the process.
From a pure talent standpoint, the Caps probably did take the best player available. Lapierre had top 10-15 buzz before he suffered three concussions between February and November of 2019. He was later diagnosed with a craniocervical traumatic injury by renowned Boston-based athletic therapist Dan Dyrek. The injury required treatments to his vertebrae which he supposedly got fixed. He was cleared to play again in April 2020.
Lapierre, playing with the Chicoutimi Saguenéens, was the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s (QMJHL) 2018-19 Offensive Rookie of the Year, and he scored two goals and two assists to open the 2020-21 season this past weekend, his first game back after being medically cleared.
Despite all the injuries last season, Lapierre posted 17 points (2g, 15a) in just 19 games in the QMJHL, and as mentioned is already off to a hot start this year. We won’t see him in NHL action for at least a couple years, but there’s a lot to look forward to when evaluating the potential he brings to the table.
If Lapierre can stay healthy, he has the potential to develop into a franchise center and the biggest steal of the first round. His player comparison was Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, and while those comparisons should always be taken with a grain of salt, it’s quite the praise.
With 2019 first-rounder Connor McMichael already in the organization, adding Lapierre to the mix gives the Caps two very enticing prospects at center for the future. His head injuries are obviously worth monitoring, but it could pay off big time for the Capitals if things break the right way.
Like many players from his generation, Lapierre named Alex Ovechkin as one of his favorite players growing up, and the said Caps have been one of his favorite teams to watch since he was younger. On a surreal personal note, Lapierre is officially the first player younger than me to be drafted into the Capitals organization. Weird.
Cover Photo Credit: NBC Sports