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Get to Know Connor McMichael

More stats and facts about the center drafted by the Caps in last night’s first round

NHLI via Getty Images

Draft guru Luke Adomanis is back to provide a bit more insight into the Caps’ first-round pick, Connor McMichael:

When the Washington Capitals called out Connor McMichael’s name at pick #25 Friday night I was a little disappointed. I thought for sure there were better names out there, such as Arthur Kaliyev, Bobby Brink, and Ryan Suzuki. But the more I’ve looked into him the more I’m intrigued by the London Knight center. Yes, I did review him already as a potential first round pick for the Capitals, but when going over fifty players it’s hard to dive deep into all of them. Once I did with McMichael I’ve learned to love the pick.

Assistant General Manager Ross Mahoney summed up McMichael perfectly after the draft: “He’s a goal scorer”. And goal scoring is an asset the Capitals desperately need among their pass-first players. McMichael led all draft-eligible centers in the whole CHL (that means WHL, CHL, and QMJHL) in goal scoring with 36. In fact, looking at all first year draft eligible centers in any league he ranked second only to Alex Newhook out of the BCHL. Connor’s 10.46 shots/60 ranked him fourth among CHL draft eligible centers. He was second in the OHL forwards among draft eligibles in expected goals per game played, behind only Arthur Kaliyev. So it’s obvious to see McMichael loves to shoot and loves to score, which is what the game is about.

But he isn’t just a shooter. He’s smart, has great hands, and great vision while in the offensive zone. He ranked fourth in the CHL in 5v5 primary assists per game and fifth in primary points per game. That’s very impressive. Scouching Report did a video on him and praised McMichael in the games he tracked as a player that loves to create high danger scoring chances, more than anyone else he tracked in North America. The chart below shows how he compared to his other OHL draft counterparts that were 18 or younger. The green represents top line production. He was a beast in all of them except secondary assists, which is basically useless and random.

On top of his goal scoring and playmaking ability, McMichael is a competitor and doesn’t back down from a battle or forecheck. The issue is he needs to put on more weight because even if he’s willing to battle in the dirty areas and he can lose a lot of them because of his lack of strength. If he wants to make it at the next level he’ll certainly have to bulk up, but he’s still young and has a lot of time to put the muscle on.

His biggest weakness by far is his defensive game; even though he calls himself a good two-way center, he still has a lot of work to do on the back end. As stated above, he is a very smart player in the offensive zone, and it’s unlikely it just turns off in the defensive zone, so it’s probably a laziness issue. Lazy seems like a harsh word, but the point is he could probably put in more effort to his zone coverage. The good news is he plays for Dale Hunter, who prides himself in defensive play by his team, so McMichael will receive some good defensive coaching while playing in juniors. If Connor can round out his defensive game to be at least average then add that to his elite offensive game, he could be a great package center going forward.

A comparison he often gets is Auston Matthews... and no, he will not be Auston Matthews, but McMichael is similar to Matthews when it comes to goal scoring. His ability to float around the slot and get his amazing shot off quickly is something they have in common. Then to add on top of that being able to complete high danger passes to fellow teammates, it makes sense why he gets those type of comparisons. If McMichael continues to grow his game not just offensively but defensively, there’s a real chance the Capitals got their hands on a legit top six center player. And with Nicklas Backstrom on the back half of his career, it’s good to stock the pipeline with a potential top-six replacement.

Thank you to Prospect-Stats, Dobber Hockey, and Scouching Report for the images.