For the first time since taking Stanislav Galiev a decade ago, the Washington Capitals have taken a player out of the QMJHL with a draft pick — and it was a big one. With their first-round pick, the Capitals did exactly what they should have: swung for the fences. At this point in their history, with a thin prospect pool, the Capitals needed to take a chance on some high end talent, no matter the negatives, and that’s what they did when they took center Hendrix Lapierre.
Last summer, Lapierre was seen as a legitimate top-ten, even top-five pick for the 2020 NHL draft, but after an injury-riddled season where he suffered three concussions and a neck injury he only played 19 games (although Lapierre did note during his post-draft media time that he actually only suffered one concussion). When he was finally cleared to play COVID-19 hit and the season was cancelled. He never had a chance to prove he still has elite talent.
Great job by Washington. This Lapierre kid has always been one of the Top 5 amongst his peers since minor hockey. He has all of the tools to become a major contributor & I LOVE the pick. I know the injury is a concern but Washington just got a Top 7 pick if he stays healthy.— North American Central Scouting Independent Bureau (@MarkSeidel) October 7, 2020
And that is exactly what Lapierre brings to the table. He has elite playmaking ability, possibly among the whole draft, at least top three. His vision and passing ability are NHL ready it seems. It’s funny he wears 92 because he looks a lot like Evgeny Kuznetsov when he’s on the ice dishing out passes. He does a great job at slowing down the play, playing the perimeter then finding that tiny hole to set up scoring chances; essentially a Kuznetsov.
Hendrix Lapierre to the Caps at 22. The Caps are swinging for the fences here. Lapierre didn't play much last season due to injuries. He's very pass first but his production at even strength and efficiency both suggest that he can deliver when healthy. pic.twitter.com/ua8HImLZOY— GTAnalytics (@GTAnalytics_) October 7, 2020
On the negative side, he’s not exactly known as a shoot-first type of player (much like Kuznetsov). And until Hendrix starts shooting the puck more, teams will always play the pass. Lapierre needs to make the opponent think he will rip it as well so it opens up some ice for his teammates to get into scoring areas. The good news is in the two games since the QMJHL started their season, he has three goals.
Unlike Kuznetsov, however, Hendrix is a two-way center. He works extremely hard on the backcheck and retrieving the puck in the defensive zone. He has the smarts and work ethic to help his team out before moving the puck up the ice into the offensive zone where he works his playmaking magic. He could certainly be better on the defensive side but it’s a great start to see the effort at the very least.
Hendrix Lapierre is going to be a grand slam if he stays healthy. He’s the guy people may look back on and say “how on earth did we pass on this kid?”— Rachel Doerrie (@racheldoerrie) October 7, 2020
Lapierre still needs to get stronger and develop more of a willingness to get into the middle of the ice. His skating is also very good but you’d like to see a little bit more speed in his north south game. But his speed is still good and with his hands he can dangle in and out of players as he attacks them.
Unfortunately with Hendrix only playing 19 games last season, we don’t have a big enough sample size to draw any real conclusions or present any data visualization for him. And that kind of sums it up, right? Lapierre’s lack of playing leaves a big question mark. Did the COVID break help him reinforce his strength and avoid injury, or did it hinder him with lack of playing time?
The Washington Capitals trade up to grab Hendrix Lapierre at 22!— Tony Ferrari (@theTonyFerrari) October 7, 2020
This is a bit of a risk but there is a lot to work with here. When he is healthy, as he's been this year, he's productive!@DobberProspects profile: https://t.co/CgO5Cwp4J4 pic.twitter.com/31uQ6Lm2se
Thankfully after that rash of injuries, he is by all accounts very healthy and ready to go. The Athletic did a great piece about what his doctors and physical therapist are doing with him to make sure he’s ready to move on from his injuries.
It’s all a big question but if Lapierre stays healthy and grows his game he has a legit chance on turning into a legit 60 assist player at the NHL level while being a top six center. Only time will tell. But we do know that he is extremely hungry and ready to get out on the ice to prove all the doubters wrong.