Hopeful Caps Lapierre confident and healthy at rookie camp originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
Hendrix Lapierre’s journey to a professional hockey career has never been easier.
At just 19, he has already played three seasons filled with adversity in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. At times he thought his career might have finished.
In February 2019, he suffered a concussion, returned to the roster later this season and established himself as a potential pick in the 2020 NHL Draft. But after a slow start, he was diagnosed with a second concussion. He returned to the lineup for his Chicoutimi Sagueneens, only to be diagnosed with a third concussion.
The problem? He did not have three separate concussions. It was a handset with a neck injury where the vertebrae were out of place. While it certainly wasn’t a minor injury, Lapierre felt lucky not to have suffered three concussions in 10 months. The Capitals were lucky he fell to 22nd overall.
A team that has already killed subsequent draft picks in the first round (Evgeny Kuznetsov at No.26 in 2010, Mike Green at No.29 in 2004, John Carlson at No.27 in 2008) thinks they might have a story. similar. After another year cut short by coronaviruses in the QMJHL in 2020-21, Lapierre is now back at rookie camp in Arlington this weekend confident he’s healthy and ready to make an impact.
“Definitely more comfortable. When you get there the first time around, you don’t really know what to expect, ”said Lapierre on Day 2 of the team’s rookie camp on Sunday. “You meet new people, there’s a lot going on at the same time. Now that I’ve come for the second time, I know a little more where things are, the hotel, the rinks, the schedule. Definitely a little more comfortable. I think things are going well so far so definitely the second experience helps a lot.
Lapierre played 21 games with Chicoutimi last season and collected 31 points. He placed eighth in the QMJHL for points per game. But even this season has been ruined by COVID as he spent more time than he would have liked in quarantine throughout the season as he bounced between his junior team, the training camp of the Canada’s national junior team and a preseason stint with the Caps in January.
It meant a lot of times in hotel rooms instead of watching videos about himself on the ice and doing all the practice possible wherever there was room to become a better hockey player. He carried that program into the offseason, which is why Lapierre was so confident in his game when speaking to the media.
“I think I’m getting closer every day,” said Lapierre. “I do everything in my power every day to be a better hockey player, whether it’s on-ice preparation, off-ice preparation. I think I had a really good summer in terms of training, nutrition, sleep, stuff like that. I feel really good right now, a lot of confidence. I think that’s a good thing, the mental side of things. Right now I feel confident in my abilities and fair in my overall game.
Lapierre’s goal is to make the Canadian junior team this season after being a long range shooter at 18. He was unhappy with his game at camp for Canada last December when he was in the first round of the Cups. Little things about his game could be improved. It takes a lot to stand out among some of the best young hockey players in the world, including last year’s Caps top prospect Connor McMichael.
But the World Juniors and the QMJHL can wait. For now, Lapierre is in Washington until the Capitals fire him. Rookie camp is an opportunity, just like every time it shows up during training camp against the NHL players, who start camp this week. As for what he hopes to show management?
“Just that I’m ready to play,” said Lapierre. “I had a big summer, I’m confident. I really want to prove that I’m not just a junior player right now, that I can play at the next level. I know it’s gonna be tough. It’s the National Hockey League, there are a lot of really good guys. But I have nothing to lose.