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NHL Draft 2020, taking a closer at: Hendrix Lapierre

A risky pick, with tremendous upside

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Chicoutimi Sagueneens v Quebec Remparts Photo by Mathieu Belanger/Getty Images

A couple of days ago, I started to take a deeper, more in-depth dive into some of the prospects that could very well end up with the Flyers in the first round of the 2020 NHL draft.

Like Lukas Reichel, Hendrix Lapierre is a fairly big body (6’0”, 181 lbs) and has good hockey intelligence. However, stylistically, the two could not be further apart. Lapierre is a prototypical playmaking center, and with the likes of Morgan Frost already in the organization, I questioned in my previous article the need for the Flyers to draft a player in the vein of Lapierre. That may hold true, but regardless, Lapierre projects to bring exceptional value, especially given his upside in context of the potential for an explosive draft+1 season.

I had the following to say of Lapierre before:

The 18-year-old center scored 17 points in 19 games for Chicoutimi of the QMJHL, and has even been projected as high as 13th in various draft boards. Personally, I think he’s more likely to go in the early to mid twenties, as he didn’t have the best showing in 2019-20 due to injury problems. However, the offensive upside is clearly there.

He looks to be an option to succeed Claude Giroux as the power-play quarterback. His hockey intelligence is second to none, and he has a past first mentality. He isn’t a burner, but can play a fast game that when combined with his silky skills can be lethal. I think he’s only slipped this low because of the injuries, and due to some less than optimal point totals.

Points aren’t everything, and I think Lapierre’s upside is undeniably worth taking him with this pick if the Flyers choose to do so. I understand if they wouldn’t due to having Morgan Frost who is a similar type of player.

The aforementioned injury issues are perhaps why Lapierre is being projected to be taken in the later third of the first round, and reports suggest that NHL teams are worried about the risk with Lapierre’s health. This makes Lapierre a very high-risk, high-reward pick that isn’t as highly rated as, say, Mavrik Bourque, but the play-style comparison is there and if things fall in his favor, Lapierre could equally become just as good as scouts project Bourque to be.

What do the stats say?

What makes Lapierre hard to advocate for in some respects is the fact that his point totals don’t jump off the page whenever you look him up. In the 2019-20 QMJHL season, Lapierre scored 17 points in 19 contests for the Chicoutimi Saguenéens (someone please tell me how to pronounce that word). That doesn’t look too bad from a first glance, but only two of those points were goals, and though he is primarily a playmaker, only scoring twice is a fairly considerable letdown.

In his defense, the injuries Lapierre suffered almost certainly had an effect on his game. Doctors diagnosed Lapierre with a series of concussions before a specialist clarified that his symptoms were in fact the result of a twisted vertebrae (source via The Athletic). Regardless, that clearly had an effect on Lapierre, and though he was having a good but not great season when he was skating and healthy, it’s entirely possible we could’ve seen greater things from him in a full season.

In fact, as a first year major-junior player, he scored 45 points in 48 games in 2018-19. Therefore, when taking into account this current year and the trajectory many scouts see with Lapierre, along with his very evident skill, it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if he broke out in 2020-21 like Morgan Frost did. Furthermore, to start 2019-20, Lapierre torched his competition playing with team Canada in the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, scoring 11 points in only five games. That seems pretty, pretty good.

The Eye Test

Let’s get this out of the way first: it’s difficult to properly grade Lapierre’s game in its entirety due to his injury issues this past season. The following quote was featured in Corey Pronman’s 2020 NHL draft board when featuring Lapierre:

His game was just OK off the puck, and he didn’t attack the net that much, but it’s hard to know whether that’s how he plays or whether the injuries caused hesitancy.

I can tell you from personal experience that when coming back from a fairly serious injury (for me that was a dislocated shoulder), you play the game a bit differently, at least on a subconscious level. Obviously, Lapierre has to protect himself and his future NHL career interests, and getting injured again does not serve to help anybody, let alone the consequences to his long-term health, so it’s completely understandable that Lapierre was perhaps taking things a bit more cautiously.

Alternatively, he really doesn’t fit the bill of a player that goes hard to the net in the first place. As I stated in the opening of this article, Lapierre is a playmaker through and through. He’s one of the best passers in the draft, and while he can easily thread a seam, he is slippery enough when moving through center ice to open up gaps for his wingers to fill, equally creating with that tactic in addition. He is very creative with this and can confuse opponents this way.

He also has a pretty decent shot that looks to be fairly accurate. In the typical playmaker fashion, however, Lapierre thinks pass first, and really doesn’t use his shot as much as you’d like. He likely won’t ever be a massive goal-scorer in the NHL, but you can probably expect him to chip in with goals now and then.

Because of Lapierre’s passing prowess, and his hockey IQ, he is a fantastic power-play component, capable of running a power-play setup from the half boards. He functions best in the Giroux role, setting up from the left boards as a primary passer and as an option for a one-timer at the back post near the circle. He loves to sneak into areas down low as well, and he moves around a lot which causes mayhem and usually earns him points.

The only knocks on Lapierre are on his physical game and skating ability. For the former, I wouldn’t expect Lapierre to ever play in an overly physical style, since I just don’t think he processes the game that way. I equally wouldn’t expect Claude Giroux to either, so I can’t really fault Lapierre for that. Of the latter, however, Lapierre lacks some top end speed. He flashes quickness in his hands, and in how he processes the plays around him on the ice, and doesn’t play slow. However, Lapierre isn’t a speedster by any means. He’ll need to work on that transition in quickness to the NHL, though if he does, opponents should watch out.

Overall, Lapierre could turn out to be a very fine player if all breaks well for him in the coming seasons. He possesses an element of risk that may steer some clubs away from drafting him, though I wouldn’t at all be disappointed with the Flyers taking a chance on him. Sure, there already exist players like Lapierre in the Flyers’ system, but I don’t think that would necessarily stop them from taking him.