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Capitals' first-round pick Connor McMichael knows patience is key in his path to the NHL

Capitals' first-round pick Connor McMichael knows patience is key in his path to the NHL

Connor McMichael is the first Washington Capitals' prospect featured in NBC Sports Washington's I Am The Prospect series. Click here to check out more profiles from I am The Prospect.

Connor McMichael looks forward to the day when he puts on a red sweater for the Capitals in his NHL debut.

"It’s something special coming to Washington and hopefully be the next player who comes out here as one of the legends.” McMichael said.

But for now, the Capitals' 2019 first-round pick will continue to develop his skills under former Caps head coach Dale Hunter in the Ontario Hockey League for the London Knights. Hunter's brother Mark is also a part of the Knights as the general manager.

“We’re excited that Dale’s gonna have him for another year or two," Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said. "That’s really gonna help his development."

McMichael has been a standout player for the Knights, leading the team in scoring and to a first-place finish in the Western Conference last season. Many NHL prospects do not get the immediate call-up to the big leagues, so having a former Capitals great play a big role in McMichael's development is a big plus.

“He’s very well-coached," Capitals head coach Todd Reirden said. "He’s played in kind of a bigger stage in terms of the number of people who come to watch London play. We like that fact that he’s already dealt with some of that pressure and he’s succeeded."

The 19-year-old from Ajax, Ontario, is patient, knowing further development of his skills is a necessity to succeeding in the NHL.

"Dale’s been huge for my development and so has Mark so I’m thankful to have them," McMichael said.

What attracted the Capitals' top brass to McMichael was his ability to play both ends of the ice, a 200-foot player.

“He’s got a knack for scoring goals around the net," MacLellan said. "He’s got a little extra sense or intelligence, hockey intelligence that a lot of players don’t have.”

For McMichael, patience is key, and a virtue that will pay off for both him and the Capitals in the long-run.


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Capitals top brass offer support to Kuznetsov while awaiting NHL ruling

Capitals top brass offer support to Kuznetsov while awaiting NHL ruling

In the wake of Evgeny Kuznetsov's four-year suspension by the International Ice Hockey Federation, the National Hockey League has met with Kuznetsov to determine the next course of action, if any. How that discipline or lack thereof will affect the Capitals is a different story.

“At this point, it’s out of our hands, it’s in the National Hockey League’s hands, and we’re gonna, out of respect for the process, we’re gonna allow it to take its course and hope to hear something here soon so we can make some adjustments if need be and otherwise move forward from there," Capitals head coach Todd Reirden said on The Sports Junkies Thursday. "But at this time, it’s been really important for us to help Evgeny as he’s going through some tough times and support him."

General manager Brian MacLellan echoed a similar sentiment during the Capitals' Media Day presser.

“We’ve constantly been trying to help him out through the whole process and try to give as much support as we can," MacLellan said.

The Capitals have offered support to Kuznetsov through constant conversation and “just trying to be a friend and just trying to be supportive for him,” MacLellan said. Additionally, Kuznetsov has voluntarily agreed to help through the NHLPA's counseling and education program, including regular testing.

“I think he’s aware that it’s a big mistake in his mind, and he’s remorse, he knows he made a mistake and he wants to move on from it, he wants to take responsibility for it but also move on," MacLellan said.

Kuznetsov's inconsistent play during the 2019 season caused many to speculate whether the cocaine-usage was related.

“There’s no indication that those two are correlated in my mind. It could have an effect, or other stuff could have an effect on what happened," MacLellan said.

Last season, Kuznetsov had 21 goals and 51 assists, as compared to the 27 goals and 56 assists he had during the 2017-2018 season when the Capitals won the Stanley Cup.

“He’s one of the best players in the league in my mind," MacLellan said. "He’s a big part of our organization, he’s a big part of our team and he was a big part of our Stanley Cup win so he’s an important member for us and we have expectations that he’ll get back to that level and maybe even better going forward.”


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Rizzo supports Strasburg's right to consider opt-out (though he probably won't)

Rizzo supports Strasburg's right to consider opt-out (though he probably won't)

At the end of the 2019 Nationals season, whenever that may be, Stephen Strasburg has the option to opt-out of his $175 million contract extension. 

“He negotiated that aspect of the contract into his contract and he has every right to contemplate opting out if he were to incline to do so," Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said on The Sports Junkies Wednesday.

Rizzo knows that's an option, but feels confident Strasburg will elect to stay a National.

“I think he likes it here and I think he loves his teammates and the atmosphere we have here and I’m confident that he’ll be a National," Rizzo said.

Strasburg has had an outstanding season thus far boasting a 5.3 WAR, second to his 6.5 WAR 2017 season when he was a Cy Young finalist.

A report circulated earlier last week that Strasburg's inclination to opt-out of his contract was becoming more likely, however, NBC Sports Washington's Todd Dybas doesn't think that will happen, and Rizzo is convinced Strasburg has come to love his new home.

“He’s had a terrific season for us, he’s been a great National and we think, and I know, that he is comfortable here, he loves it here in Washington D.C," Rizzo said.

ESPN's Buster Olney joined the Nationals Talk Podcast where he gave two factors to consider: Strasburg's medical history with Tommy John surgery and his known affinity for comfortability.

"I don't know too many players in baseball who are probably more adverse to change than him," Olney said. "I think he likes having things settled. I think that's part of the reason why he basically encouraged Scott to work out a long-term deal with the Nationals when he initially signed that seven years for $175 [million]."

Time will tell what Strasburg decides to do with his four-years and $100 million remaining on his contract with the Nationals.