Capitals Right to Return Hendrix Lapierre to Juniors

Hendrix Lapierre, the Washington Capitals’ next great offensive hope, is headed back to the juniors – and it’s the right decision for both parties. On Wednesday (November 10), Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan announced that the 19-year-old would be returning to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s (QMJHL) Acadie-Bathurst Titan.

Lapierre’s re-assignment comes after he made six appearances for the Capitals, a stint that included a debut goal versus the New York Rangers. The Quebec-native also made a positive impact off the ice, injecting young energy into an ageing roster.

Hendrix Lapierre, Washington Capitals
Hendrix Lapierre made his NHL debut on the opening night of the 2021-22 season. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

T.J. Oshie was certainly impressed. “He’s a super talented young kid,” Oshie said following Lapierre’s debut. “Awesome, awesome, awesome guy. He’s fun to be around. He’s smiling in the locker room. You can tell he’s really enjoying himself. He’s working hard. He’s very interested in learning from players, from coaches.”

He added: “I think he’s just going to get better and better and it really is really fun playing with him.” Following Lapierre’s reassignment, there are three questions to answer – starting with:

Why Was Hendrix Lapierre Re-Assigned to the Juniors?

To be brief, the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement (CBA) is why Lapierre has been sent back to Quebec.

Under the league’s CBA, 18- and 19-year-old prospects from the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) (of which the QMJHL is a member) cannot play in the American Hockey League (AHL). Wait, there’s more. NHL franchises can return CHL prospects to their junior clubs at any point in the season before they make their 10th big show appearance. If the player makes 10 appearances, their NHL service kicks in, pushing them towards free agency.

Ultimately, Lapierre was re-assigned to the QMJHL to prevent the Capitals from burning a year of his NHL contract. With him unable to play in the AHL (and unlikely to wrack up much ice time in Washington), the sensible decision was to return him to the Titan, so that he can play out his junior eligibility.

Was Hendrix Lapierre’s NHL Spell a Success?

Yes, it was.

As noted, Lapierre scored one goal in six appearances for the Capitals. He spent just under 52 minutes on the ice, made one hit, and blocked two shots. According to Natural Stat Trick, the Capitals broke even in terms of scoring chances while the 19-year-old was buzzing around, which is encouraging in and of itself.

Hendrix Lapierre netted his first NHL goal off a delicious feed from T.J. Oshie.

Although the majority of Lapierre’s starts came off the fly, head coach Peter Laviolette sheltered the Canadian from defensive tasks when he could, which was wise as he won just six of the 15 draws he contested.

“Lappy made plays,” Laviolette said following the Canadian’s debut. “He’s a smart, creative player. You can see it in the way he plays the game.”

From his NHL spell, it was Lapierre’s hockey sense that stood out. For a player so inexperienced, the 19-year-old understood his role and instinctively knew what to do to best support the team. For that, Washington’s coaches also deserve credit – however, it is worth remembering that few CHL prospects make the jump to senior hockey so unexpectedly and aren’t immediately overwhelmed.

Lapierre was a positive influence in the dressing room, broke his NHL duck immediately, and jumped into a role he isn’t really ready for to help the Capitals through an injury crisis. His time in the District of Columbia was a success.

What Does the Future Hold for Hendrix Lapierre?

Well, that would be telling. First, let’s look at what the immediate future holds for Lapierre.

Acadie-Bathurst are currently on a horrible run of form: they are 1-4-0 over their last five games. Lapierre’s first task will be to adapt to his new teammates (he was traded to the Titan during the offseason). Next, he’ll have to find a way of making good on his elevated role in the line-up.

From there, the future is bright for the former first-round pick. Like Connor McMichael, Lapierre will likely spend large chunks of a season in the AHL before making the jump to Laviolette’s roster thereafter.

Hendrix Lapierre was traded by the Chicoutimi Saguenéens to QMJHL rivals Acadie-Bathurst Titan during the off-season.

If his first six appearances in the NHL are anything to go by, Lapierre still projects as a top-six forward. As it stands, the only major gap in his game (at least at the senior level) is his proficiency in the faceoff circle. He has an eye for the goal and already reads the play well, but the defensive side of his game could be improved.

Look, you shouldn’t be upset that Lapierre’s time with the Capitals is over – you should smile because it happened.

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