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2023-24 Rink Wrap: Connor McMichael

Feb 20, 2024; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Washington Capitals center Connor McMichael (24) celebrates after scoring a goal against the New Jersey Devils in the second period at Capital One Arena. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

From Alexeyev to Wilson, we’re taking a look at and grading the 2023-24 season for every player who laced ‘em up for the Washington Capitals for a significant number of games during the campaign, with an eye towards 2024-25. Next up, Connor McMichael.

The Bio:
#24 | Center | Shoots: Left
Height: 6’0” | Weight: 180 | Born: January 15, 2001
Birthplace: Ajax, Ontario, Canada | Acquired: Drafted in 2019, 1st round (25th overall)
Cap Hit: $863,333 | Signed Through: 2023-24 | Expiry Status: Restricted Free Agent (QO: $874,125)

The Scouting Report (via CapFriendly):
Report: November 2023 | Rating: 84 | Projection: Third Line

  • Evolving player who is still a developing prospect overall.
  • Future 2F is likely. 3F for now in his current role.
  • Earning shifts in a variety of roles. Deployed in all situations. Skates around 15:00 per game.
  • On occasion he shows a burst of speed, especially off the puck, attacking through the neutral zone.
  • Good puck touch. Equal parts distributor / shooter. Not a ton of bump to his game. Mostly a motion player. Not a grind it out along the boards / in the trenches player. Room for improvement in the face-off circle. Well below 50%.
via CapFriendly

The Stats:

Regular Season

The Charts:

via JFresh Hockey
via HockeyStatCards
via Evolving-Hockey

The Key Stat: McMichael led the team at five-on-five in individual expected goals (ixG) and was second in ixG rate (behind Ivan Miroschnichenko), ending the season with 13 goals at five aside on 14.9 ixG.

The Good: After struggling for NHL ice time under Peter Laviolette for a couple of seasons, McMichael solidified himself in the Caps’ middle six for his former head coach, Spencer Carbery (for whom McMichael was the Hershey Bears’ leading goal-scorer as a 20-year-old in their only season together there). McMike’s 18 goals were a personal best in four pro seasons (though he scored at a higher rate in both of his AHL-heavy campaigns), and his 13.3 shooting percentage was second only to Dylan Strome (16.0) among Caps with more than 90 shots on goal – not bad for a guy who was ninth among forwards on the team in per game power-play ice time. In fact, Carbery used McMichael more on the penalty kill than on the power play (kudos to you if you saw that one coming), and he was the only Cap skater who ended the season with the team other than John Carlson and Tom Wilson to average more than a minute per game on each special teams unit.

McMike’s 18 goals and 15 even-strength tallies were both fourth-best on the team, and his 11 lamp-lighters after the All-Star Break ranked second (tied). He was also one of only four Caps forwards to score in the playoffs, so… yeah.

McMichael worked well Anthony Mantha and Aliaksei Protas to form what was probably the Caps’ best regular line on the season (though the results didn’t necessarily reflect that, as the second image will show), solid at both ends of the ice:

via MoneyPuck

After Mantha was traded to Vegas, McMichael spent a good bit of time time between Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie, a trio that had some success despite poor underlying numbers (above):

via MoneyPuck

2023-24 was always going to be an important year for McMichael, given his age, contract status and, frankly, what he’d shown at the NHL level so far. For the most part, he delivered… right?

The Bad: Well… there may not be a player on the Caps’ roster for whom the “analytics” and eye test are more misaligned. That’s not to say that he had a terrific 2023-24, but his underlying numbers were replacement level-to-bad (see The Charts above), and the results were even worse:

via Evolving-Hockey

Was McMichael the worst skater to end the season with the club? Says there he was, with negative impacts in even-strength offense and defense, shorthanded defense and an inability to draw penalties.

To be sure, McMichael’s game has holes at this point – of the 86 players who took 700 or more faceoffs in 2023-24, McMichael’s 42.4 win percentage was dead last, and say what you want about plus/minus, but a minus-20 rating has to raise some eyebrows (perhaps there are reasons that his PDO in his two NHL seasons has been .979 and .980). And he’s doing what he’s doing with generally favorable deployments. Perhaps at this stage of his career, it’s all about finding the right linemates for McMichael. That’s fine, of course, but at some point you’d probably hope your former first-round pick could develop into the type of player who is effective in his own right and makes others around him better, and isn’t so dependent on others for his own success. Improvements in a few key areas may well turn McMichael into exactly that.

The Video: Mitts simply don’t get silkier than this…

The Discussion: What do you see as McMichael’s role going forward? What’s his ceiling? Floor? Is he a center or a wing? What aspect of his game needs the most work? What should his next contract look like? And finally, what would it take for you to give McMichael a 10 next season?

The Vote: Rate Connor McMichael below on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best) based on his performance relative to his potential and your expectations for the season – so if he had the best year you could have imagined him having, give him a 10; if he more or less played as you expected he would, give him a 5 or a 6; if he had the worst year you could have imagined him having, give him a 1.

How would you rate Connor McMichael's 2023-24 season? (Ratings will be revealed after all Rink Wraps have been completed.)

Talking Points