Every Thursday, NHL.com will look ahead to the 2020 NHL Draft with an in-depth profile on one of its top prospects.
Hendrix Lapierre already was a well-regarded prospect for the 2020 NHL Draft, but his play at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup in August pushed him into a potential high first-round pick.
The center with Chicoutimi of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League was second for Canada with 11 points (three goals, eight assists) and helped Canada finish second in the tournament.
"I could feel a little more attention being paid to me after the tournament," Lapierre said. "It went really well over there. It's nice to see that it's raised my profile a bit. I had a good first season; people were talking about me a bit. But it's reached another level because of the tournament."
Lapierre has continued his strong play with Chicoutimi. The 5-foot-11, 179-pound center has 17 points (two goals, 15 assists) in 18 games, and he received an A rating in NHL Central Scouting's November players to watch list.
"What I saw of him at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup is what I saw of him when he was able to pick up his pace last season," Chicoutimi coach-general manager Yanick Jean said. "He had more difficult times when he came back from both injuries.
"He still earned the offensive rookie of the year award despite playing only 48 games. He has accomplished some really nice things. He maintained an average of nearly one point per game despite everything. If he had stayed healthy, I'm sure he would have had a really big season."
Lapierre, the first pick of the 2018 QMJHL draft, had 45 points (13 goals, 32 assists) in 48 games last season and won the Michel Bergeron Trophy as the league's offensive rookie of the year. That came in a season when he was out for a month because of a shoulder injury sustained in October and for another month because of a concussion sustained in February.
"I did not expect it to be so hard," Lapierre said. "You have to get used to the game and the speed of execution all over again. I had a good start to the season, and that really cut my rhythm. It's now part of my hockey experience. I'm going to know how to handle that if it happens again."
He missed four games because of a concussion sustained Oct. 23, but in five games back he has four points (one goal, three assists). The objective remains avoiding further injury and meeting expectations placed on him and Chicoutimi, which is among the favorites to win the QMJHL championship.
"We have to manage expectations for Hendrix, but also for our entire team," Jean said. "It will not necessarily be different for him than for others. People have high expectations; our fans are excited and we are followed everywhere we go. We'll have to manage that well."
High expectations are something Lapierre is used to, going back to his final season in midget AAA.
"It's really a big year for the team and there is a lot of pressure for me personally too," he said. "But I've always been fueled by that; I like it. The biggest pressure that I feel is the pressure I put on myself. It's still hockey, you have to have fun."
Lapierre's confidence also comes from his offseason work with NHL players, including Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang and forwards Anthony Duclair of the Ottawa Senators and Jonathan Drouin of the Montreal Canadiens in the MTL Pro League, a weekly 3-on-3 league featuring NHL players. His work there led to his strong play at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, which led to his strong start to the season and increased attention from NHL scouts.
"He trained well this summer, he progressed," Jean said. "His shot has improved, and he is physically stronger on his legs. He's able to play games with a player on his back, which was not the case last year.
"We want him to continue to progress as a player and to play through his draft year without putting any extra pressure on himself. We will help guide him through it, but we can't put him in a bubble. We want to let him enjoy this experience, and I am sure he will play a big role on our team."
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