Washington Capitals’ 2020 first-round pick Hendrix Lapierre Surprised many when he made the team out of Training Camp last season. The talented center was 19 when he made his NHL debut with the Caps. In that game, he also potted his first NHL goal.
After five more appearances with the Caps, Lapierre was returned to his QMJHL junior team where he finished out the 2021-22 season. He is one of only 16 members from the first round in the 2020 draft to play in at least five NHL games already.
Hendrix arrived on an Acadie-Bathurst Titan team in mid-November that had loaded up in the offseason to make a run at the league title. In 40 games with the Titan, Lappy tallied 51 points (21g, 30a) but dealt with several scoring droughts and minor injuries that never really allowed him to fully break out in his fourth junior season. The team lost in the second round of the playoffs to the Charlottetown Islanders.
“I think there was a lot of ups and downs,” Lapierre said during Capitals’ Development Camp in Arlington, VA. “Obviously, when I got sent down to juniors, the first couple weeks were tough. There were people saying to me, ‘You’ll probably have a little time where you’re a little down or off,’ and I was like ‘Naw, it’s going to be all right.’ As soon as I got sent down, I was a little sad. Obviously, being here was awesome.
“The season went well,” he continued. “But as I said, I could have been a little bit more consistent. Obviously, we didn’t win which is the ultimate goal. That sucks, but I think I have to grow from that. I gained a lot of experience to come back in September and make my mark.”
Lapierre turned 20 last February which makes him eligible to play the entire 2022-23 season in the American Hockey League with the Hershey Bears. To play a full, successful season in the pros, the young center is cognizant that he needs to work on some things.
“My strength is my number one priority,” he replied when asked about what he is focused on this summer. “Being big and able to play 82 games against men every other night. I think for me is that my biggest concern. I think I’ve made a lot of progress but there’s still eight weeks left in the summer so I’m pretty confident I’ll be able to put on some more weight and get ready. And just little details I try to work on.”
Lapierre said he’s currently “around 185” pounds and has gained two to three pounds of muscle already this summer.
“I’ve been training, he continued. I’m in Montreal. It’s my sixth summer now there. My trainers know what I need. This summer was mostly about strength. The first summers were about building a certain foundation and stuff like that. Right now it’s about lifting heavy weights and making sure I eat a lot so I [put on weight]. They know me pretty well so they know what I need.”
Lapierre trains with NHL veterans Kris Letang, Jonathan Huberdeau, Frank Veleno, Anthony Beauvillier, Marco Scandella, and Will Carrier at home. The players are planning to play three-on-three games on Tuesday nights at the rink for the rest of the offseason.
“Even if I’m not working out with them, I still see them everyday,” Lapierre said of what he’s learned. “I talk to them a lot and form good relationships so I think it’s awesome. Six years ago when I first got in that gym, I was a little shy but now I’m not afraid to ask questions and spend time with those guys.”
Friday, Lapierre completed his first Development Camp with the Capitals. COVID-19 spoiled both previous iterations of the camp Lapierre would have attended. The talented forward starred in the camp-ending scrimage, finishing the game as one of only two players to record two points.
sneaky Hendrix!! pic.twitter.com/kCcietZBek
— NBC Sports Capitals (@NBCSCapitals) July 15, 2022
Lapierre also understood his visibility as a top prospect and made a Capitals fan’s day by giving him his game-used stick.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) July 16, 2022
While making the NHL team this season looks out of reach given the recent additions of Dylan Strome and Marcus Johansson in free agency, it’s clear that the Quebec native is committed to trying his best to excel at the pro level and he knows what he needs to do to get there.
“As I mentioned, my consistency – just every single night being there,” Lapierre said. “I don’t think it’s a lack of will. Some nights go better than others and I think it doesn’t go well after a period, you reset and show something out there. A little bit of consistency and I think my general game. In the D-zone last year when as a center, I had a little bit of trouble sometimes when other teams would do specific movements that would sometimes just be extending in the D-zone. It’s so quick and the guys are so smart you have to work to make sure you don’t lose too much energy and you’re always at the right spot. There’s a lot of things to work on, but that’s the main stuff.”
After this season, Strome will be a restricted free agent; Lars Eller and Johansson will both be unrestricted free agents; And the team should know where Nicklas Backstrom stands with his recovery from hip surgery. All of that could lead to the 2023-24 season being pivotal in Lapierre’s career.
While six NHL games aren’t much, Lapierre believes he got the most out of his time in DC — especially with mentors like Tom Wilson who texted the prospect off and on.
“It helped me a lot,” he said. “It’s tough to pinpoint one thing but it’s just being around those guys each and every day and seeing what they do. It’s a veteran group here — a lot of guys from 28 to 36-37-years-old. They’ve been there for a while, they know what it takes. So, for me, a young guy coming in, you see what they do each and every day that allows them to have success in the best league in the world whether it’s spending extra time in the gym or taking care of your body the best way you can. For me, it was really motivating and an eye-opening experience.”
Headline photo: Cara Bahniuk/RMNB