Connor McMichael to skate on Hershey Bears’ second line in AHL season debut

Connor McMichael was sent down 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 selection is slated to skate on the Bears’ second line in his first game back in the AHL since the 2020-21 campaign where he led Hershey in goals and points.

The Bears tweeted out their lineup a half hour before puck drop and it sees McMichael in between NHL veteran Henrik Borgstrom and Caps prospect Henrik Rybinski. Notably, this will be McMichael’s first game playing his natural position of center this season.

The 21-year-old pivot should get a ton 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 of those players play large offensive roles both at even strength and on the Hershey power play.

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

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

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

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

“He’s just gotta play,” he continued. β€œHe’s gotta get out there and he’s gotta have great nights, good nights, tough nights. He’s gotta score some goals and be counted on defensively. Just get back to having some fun playing the game. He needs to play more than nine minutes. Just go back and play some hockey. He was excited just to go play.”

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

“I think right now it’s just important that Connor goes and he plays and has some fun,” Laviolette said. “Like I said, plays in all situations, works on his game, and continues to develop.”

Headline photo: Alan Dobbins/RMNB

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