ARLINGTON, Va. — Connor McMichael has appeared in just one of the Capitals’ first eight games of the 2022-23 season. Though the 21-year-old forward made the team’s 23-man roster out of training camp, he’s been a healthy scratch for most of Washington’s games over the first two weeks with his only start the result of a one-game suspension for center Evgeny Kuznetsov.
Rather than send him to their American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate Hershey Bears to play games on a consistent basis, head coach Peter Laviolette said in his daily press conference Wednesday that the Capitals have no plans to remove McMichael from the roster.
“He’s part of our 23 right now,” Laviolette said. “Things always change from guys going into the lineup or somebody gets injured or decisions on the roster that have to be made. There haven’t been any decisions and there hasn’t been any conversations about that. Right now, we got a roster going that we’re happy with. I’m sure it’s tough sitting out. Every player wants to play and that’s a good thing. He’s just got to keep working hard and wait for his chance.”
Drafted by the Capitals 25th overall in 2019, McMichael appeared in 68 games for Washington last season. He tallied nine goals and nine assists but averaged just 10:28 of ice time, lowest on the team among players to appear in at least 40 games. He lost out on a starting forward spot to fellow 21-year-old Aliaksei Protas in camp and has been passed over for the open fourth-line winger spot by Joe Snively and Beck Malenstyn, the latter of whom began the year in Hershey.
McMichael went without a shot in his lone game for the Capitals, a 5-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators on the road. He did get his coaches’ attention by getting into a fight by sticking up for teammate John Carlson, who was the victim of an open-ice hit by Senators forward Parker Kelly. However, it wasn’t enough for him to remain in the lineup once Kuznetsov returned even with winger Connor Brown landing on IR due to a significant lower-body injury.
Laviolette believed there were merits to keeping a young player on the NHL roster so that he can gain experience and sending him to the AHL to work on things in a game environment. McMichael, who scored 14 goals with 13 assists in games for the Bears in 2020-21, has already shown he can succeed at that level.
For now, they are keeping him in D.C., where he stays on the ice with the other healthy scratches on game days to get extra work in with the Capitals’ coaches. Should another injury strike or one of the other younger players start to struggle, he will be one of the next men up.