When Connor McMichael conducted his exit interviews last season, his objective for the offseason was clear: get stronger.
So over the last few months, he focused on lower body strength and added about five or six pounds to his frame. Now, he weighs about 188-189 pounds, and he feels better than he did a year ago.
“I had a really good offseason, I feel like I worked on my lower body strength,” McMichael said. “Able to protect the puck a lot more, hopefully make the next jump. I think that’s one of the biggest things I need to work on, is protecting the puck against bigger and stronger guys. I think I took big strides there, and I’m looking to show it in camp.”
McMichael tallied 27 points in 33 games last season for the Bears. He also made his NHL debut during the season as well, but played only one game for the Capitals.
Now he feels he’s gotten stronger without sacrificing his speed, the benefits of working out at Gary Roberts' High Performance Training over the summer in Canada. There, he was on the ice with Steven Stamkos and Connor McDavid and picked up various tips on his game.
“Those guys are obviously great players, and they’re still great players,” McMichael said. “Being on the same ice as them, it’s pretty cool. Just watching those guys day in and day out, it’s cool to be around them and watch how they grow their game.”
He added that it wasn’t so much specific instruction he got from them, but rather watching how they conducted themselves throughout training.
McMichael is the team’s highest-regarded prospect, but his role in Washington remains unclear. The Capitals, who are strapped for cap space, have four NHL-quality centers already on the roster.
It’s assumed that McMichael will begin the season in Hershey to build off what he did last season. But he’s drawing closer to the NHL, which is what fans have been waiting for since his selection in 2019.
The 20-year-old will take part in training camp starting on Thursday, which is where he’ll get the chance to showcase how he’s evolved his game over the summer. Depending on how he performs could force the Capitals’ hands, one way or another.
“I keep getting stronger and stronger each year, that’s one thing that I’ve got to keep getting better at,” he said. “I think that’s my main thing. My overall game is real good, it’s just overall winning puck battles here and there.”