ARLINGTON, Va -- Scott Allen was the assistant coach for the Hershey Bears the last two years, but now, as the head coach, it was his job to run the Capitals three-day rookie camp. As camp closed on Monday, Allen raved about the progression of forward prospect Connor McMichael.
"Certainly, [McMichael's] a very confident player," Allen said. "He's very good with the puck. He's certainly improved without the puck, which is a big part of playing in the National Hockey League, right? You have to be responsible without the puck on both sides of the puck, both offensively and defensively, and I think he's certainly taken that and run with it."
Allen got the chance to coach McMichael last season when McMichael played 33 games for the Bears. The unique experience McMichael was afforded because of the strange circumstances of COVID-19 provided him with a great learning opportunity.
"The biggest thing for any pro is consistency, right? And I think he learned a lot about that last year," Allen said. "And it was really good for him because, in a regular season, he wouldn't have been able to play in the American Hockey League -- he had to go back to junior -- and it might have been almost a wasted year for him. He had to step up his game playing against older, stronger, more mature players and he learned what it takes on a daily basis to be the best that he can be and that's going to be the challenge for him here."
Even from then to now, Allen has noticed a change.
The big goal for McMichael in the offseason was to get stronger. He came into rookie camp saying he added about five pounds of muscle and Allen said that extra strength translated to his play on the ice.
"I think he certainly looks a little stronger," Allen said. "It applies on the ice. Some guys, when they train and put on weight and get stronger, sometimes it doesn't necessarily apply to their game on the ice, but I think I've seen it in these last three days for sure."
With rookie camp now closed, the next task for McMichael will be to show off his game at Caps' training camp which opens with testing on Wednesday and on-the-ice practice on Thursday.
Allen declined to comment on how close he felt McMichael was to making the leap to the NHL saying "I'm going to leave that up to him." He did note, however, that he sees McMichael as the kind of player who can elevate his game based on the level of competition and is interested to see how he looks over the next few weeks.
"I'm excited to see what he's able to do," Allen said. "He's one of those guys that I think playing with even better players, he gets even better also."