Hendrix Lapierre hopes to crack Capitals’ deep center depth chart

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Lapierre hopes to crack Capitals’ deep center depth chart originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

ARLINGTON, Va. — Hendrix Lapierre got his first taste of NHL action last season and he’s hoping to make it back quickly.

The Capitals’ 2020 first-round pick wrapped up rookie camp with the rest of the team’s prospects Monday, just days before the team’s training camp begins later this week. After spending the offseason putting on some weight and pouring over film of star players he hopes to emulate, Lapierre has his sights set on cracking the Capitals’ roster.

“You can’t arrive at camp and not have the mentality of making that team,” Lapierre said. “You gotta be a confident player and, as I’ve said before, I think I’ve put myself in the situation to have success with what I’ve done this summer.

“It’s been in my head ever since I got eliminated last year from the QMJHL and it’s still in my head and it’s go time so I just said I’ll be ready. Whatever happens, happens but I don’t want to have any regrets kind of like last year and just play my game, see what happens.”

Lapierre, 20, shared that he added seven or eight pounds of “smart weight” this offseason to match up better with NHL players. He has not appeared in the AHL, having played all of last season with the Acadie-Bathurst Titan of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Lapierre tallied 25 goals and 37 assists in 48 games, including eight playoff contests.

Even though he impressed with a goal scored in his NHL debut last season, the Quebec native faces a difficult path to making the Capitals’ roster.

Washington added center Dylan Strome on a one-year deal to a center group that already included Evgeny Kuznetsov, Lars Eller, Nic Dowd and Connor McMichael with Nicklas Backstrom working his way back from a significant hip surgery.

However, the Capitals aren’t ruling Lapierre out heading into camp.

“That’s up to him,” Washington assistant GM Ross Mahoney said of Lapierre’s chances. “Come into camp and do well and when you get your chance in exhibition games, perform. I always say with the younger guys, ‘Make it difficult for the coaches. Make their decision really difficult.’ So that’s up to Hendrix and I know he’s going to come in with a great attitude. He’ll make it interesting.”

Off the ice and outside the gym, Lapierre said he studied film on established NHL stars Patrice Bergeron, Elias Lindholm and Sebastian Aho to get a sense of what he needs to do well to succeed in the league.

“I feel like they’re guys who are good on both sides of the ice and they can make plays offensively too," Lapierre said. "So they’re guys that I try to watch their games and see what they do, try to mimic it on the ice."