ARLINGTON, Va. -- Connor McMichael enjoyed a breakout season playing for former Washington Capitals center Dale Hunter with London of the Ontario Hockey League.
Now the 18-year-old center is ready to make an impact with the Capitals after they selected him in the first round (No. 25) of the 2019 NHL Draft. McMichael signed a three-year, entry-level contract July 12.
"I think I just got an opportunity in London," McMichael said during Capitals development camp in June. "The Hunters (Dale and his brother Mark Hunter, who is co-owner and general manager of London) believed in me a lot and I got a lot of key ice time in big moments and I was able to thrive in that. They've been great in developing me from my 16-year-old year up to this past year. So credit to them."
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Dale Hunter played 19 seasons in the NHL, including 12 for Washington from 1987-99, and was coach of the Capitals for one season after replacing Bruce Boudreau on Nov. 28, 2011. Mark Hunter played for five teams in 12 NHL seasons, including winning the Stanley Cup with the Calgary Flames in 1989.
After McMichael was acquired by London in a trade with Hamilton on Jan. 8, 2018, he had six points (three goals, three assists) in 28 games. In his first full season under Dale Hunter, he had 72 points (36 goals, 36 assists) in 67 games.
"After the draft, [Dale] kind of just talked to me about that a little bit," McMichael said. "It's kind of cool coming to Washington knowing my coach played here and coached here just a few years ago."
McMichael (6-foot, 182 pounds) was the first forward Washington selected in the first round since Jakub Vrana (No. 13) in the 2014 NHL Draft.
Video: Capitals draft F Connor McMichael No. 25
"Talking to the Hunters after the draft, they said he's just a guy you love to coach and he does everything well," Capitals director of player development Steve Richmond said. "There's no real holes in his game where he's at now. To get to the next level, he's got to improve on everything he's doing. But right now, there's no significant holes where you go, if he doesn't work on this, he'll never play."
McMichael, who scored during the scrimmage on the final day of development camp, was one of the players who stood out to Capitals coach Todd Reirden.
"[I] can see a really smart hockey sense, a good two-way game, has the ability to make plays in tighter areas," Reirden said.
The Capitals are confident McMichael's game will continue to evolve next season in London.
"Obviously, they've produced a lot of players and obviously we have a connection with them and a history and we trust them," Richmond said. "They did a pretty good job with [defenseman] John Carlson, so I think the future is bright for Connor with those guys for sure."
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