ARLINGTON, Va. (WDVM) – The Washington Capitals will host the New York Rangers for their season opener at 7:30pm on Wednesday night.
Ahead of opening night, the Capitals announced their 23 man roster for the season, with star center Nicklas Backstrom notably on being placed on long-term injured reserve. He will be out for at least 10 games to start the season.
“This year it is a little bit different, because there is an influx of youth.” said Head Coach Peter Laviolette on Monday.
The influx of youth, as he refers to, points primarily to the franchise’s first-round picks from 2019, and 2020; Connor McMichael, and Hendrix Lapierre, who will be ready to play significant minutes to start the season.
“I thought they looked like they belonged there.” said Laviolette on Monday. “They’ve got to continue to prove it on a daily basis, like anybody. But there was nothing that really slipped inside of their game as the competition got better.”
“I’ve always been confident in my abilities, and I feel like Backstrom’s injury kind of helped,” said Hendrix Lapierre when asked about making the team. “But I feel like sometimes it happens, you get a bounce or an unfortunate event like Backy’s injury and you’ve got to try to make it. I knew it was going to be really tough, it’s a tough league. But I was like, ‘OK, I’ll show what I can do each and every day, I’ll try to get better.’”
I haven’t been showing up on the stat sheet as much as I’d like, but I think I’ve been doing all the little things in the faceoff circle and bringing energy. I’ve been creating a lot of chances, so I’m pretty happy overall.” said McMichael on Monday, when asked about his play in camp so far.
McMichael led the Capitals’ AHL affiliate, Hershey Bears, in points back in the 2020-2021 season, with 27 points in 33 games. Lapierre is the first teenager to make the roster for the franchise since Martin Fehervary debuted as an 19-year old in 2019.
Both McMichael, and Lapierre are part of seven players for the Capitals who are 25 years old or younger.
“There’s still a really good core here, a veteran core that has carried and made the way for this organization for a lot of years, and they’re still really good players.” said Laviolette on Monday, “It’s good. It definitely changes (the vibe) a little bit. It’s fun to watch these guys. They’re talented. They’re fast. They’re young. It brings a different feel to the room at times.”