Connor McMichael skating on the second line for the Hershey Bears in the AHL season debut

Connor McMichael skating on the second line for the Hershey Bears in the AHL season debut

Connor McMichael was sent by the Washington Capitals on Sunday morning and is already in the lineup for the AHL’s Hershey Bears in their late-afternoon matchup against the Hartford Wolf Pack.

The 2019 first-round draft pick is slated to skate on the Bears’ second line in his first AHL game since the 2020-21 campaign, where he led Hershey in goals and points.

The Bears tweeted their lineup half an hour before the puck drop and see McMichael sandwiched between NHL veteran Henrik Borgstrom and Chiefs prospect Henrik Rybinski. Notably, this will be McMichael’s first game playing his natural center position this season.

The 21-year-old center should get plenty of ice time in his return to Hershey, as the Bears are currently dealing with injuries to forwards Mike Vecchione, Garrett Pilon and Ethen Frank. All three players play big offensive roles both at even strength and on Hershey’s power play.

That’s something Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette talked about during his presser after practice at the NHL level today.

“I talked to Connor this morning,” Laviolette said. I think just from a developmental standpoint, go down there and play some games, play 20-22 minutes a night, get in the middle of the ice, take faceoffs, play hard and get some confidence back. I spoke to him this morning and he was excited to go and play some games.”

McMichael has played in just six games for the Caps this season as he has spent most of the schedule sitting in the press box as a healthy scratch. This comes after a rookie season that saw him play in 68 games and record 18 points (9g, 9a).

“The games he’s been in there’s been no power play time, no penalty time, so you’re talking about nine minutes,” Laviolette said. “It’s probably not enough for him to continue to develop. I think it was time. We were waiting for the players to get a little bit healthier, I just felt it was important to get him playing.

“He just has to play,” he continued. “He’s got to go out there and have big nights, good nights, tough nights. He’s got to score some goals and count on them defensively. Just get back to having fun playing the game. He needs to play more than nine minutes. You’ve just got to get back and play some hockey. I was excited just to go play.”

When asked if McMichael would be the first call-up should more injury problems arise at the NHL level, the bench boss didn’t seem committed to that.

“I think right now it’s important for Connor to go and play and have fun,” Laviolette said. “Like I said, he plays in every situation, works on his game and continues to develop.”

Headline photo: Alan Dobbins/RMNB

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