As pick after pick went by in the first round, all eyes suddenly turned to center Hendrix Lapierre. He was one of the big names heading into the draft, but teams were scared off after he suffered a run of injuries in 2019. But while many teams decided to pass on Lapierre, the Capitals traded up from No. 24 to No. 22 to snag him, giving up a third-round pick in the process. So what are the Caps getting in a player that several other teams passed on?
"He’s a skilled player, potential to be a top-six centerman," Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said. "Has real good character, real good personality, lot of positives about the player. We are excited we were able to get him and I guess it is just the upside with the risk just makes sense for us.”
"We had [Lapierre] rated very highly," assistant general manager Ross Mahoney said. "Very high hockey IQ, good character player, extremely unselfish. He always has way more assists than he does goals. Comes to play, gives an honest effort every game, every shift, every period. Those are probably the main things that really stick out for us, especially the hockey sense and the hands and the unselfishness."
The team that just drafted him is obviously going to have nothing but nice things to say about their new player. The analysts on the NBCSN broadcast, however, also had nothing but glowing things to saw about Lapierre.
"He had an amazing [Hlinka Gretzky] tournament in the summer, he has a ton of personality. He’s an electrifying type person," Pierre McGuire said.
"[The Capitals] decided at this stage of the draft, they’re taking somebody who’s got elite playmaking ability and plays a really good 200-foot all-around game, that they’ll take the chance on him and see where it goes from here," Bob McKenzie said.
McKenzie would go on to say that Lapierre was a player seen to have top 10 talent in the draft class before his medical history spooked other teams. He also pointed out the criticisms of his play on the ice.
"The knock on [Lapierre], even in spite of the fact that he’s viewed as having elite playmaking ability and a really strong two-way presence," McKenzie said, "is that he doesn’t always get to the front of the net, he doesn’t always get to the inside and that is something that he is going to have to continue to work on. And quite aside from the injury history, there were some teams that were concerned that [he is] too much perimeter play, too much of a playmaker, not enough of a guy that takes it to the hole."
Clearly, Lapierre's strength is as a playmaker and not as a goal scorer. There's nothing necessarily wrong with that, you just do not want a player to become completely passive when they have opportunities to take the puck in on net themselves.
But overall, the reviews on Lapierre were glowing and the analysts were very bullish on the Caps for taking a chance on the young center. This is a high-risk move that could carry a very high reward for Washington.
"Good on the Washington Capitals," McGuire said, "And good on that scouting staff in Washington to recognize how talented this player is.”