The 2020 NHL Draft will be October 6 & 7, conducted remotely. The Calgary Flames have a first round selection and will pick 19th overall. In advance of the draft, we’ll be looking at some contenders to be selected at 19th.
Hendrix Lapierre has all the talent to be a top-five pick in the draft but he’s fallen in many recent rankings after dealing with a string of concerning head injuries. Let’s take a look at what he brings to the table.
At 6′ and 181 pounds, Hendrix Lapierre already has the physical frame to be a prototypical first-line centre in the NHL. And he puts his tools to good use on the ice, making his opponents look silly with his first-rate stickhandling and playmaking abilities. He’s an offensive dynamo in nearly every regard and he makes everyone who plays with him much better.
Lapierre showed extremely well in his first season with the QMJHL’s Chicoutimi Sagueneens in 2018–19, putting up 13 goals and 45 points in 48 games despite missing a month with a concussion. He followed that up by embarrassing his competition at the 2019 U18 Hlinka Gretzky tournament, amassing 11 points in five games in a performance that The Draft Analyst’s Steve Kournianos called “near-historic.”
The 2019–20 season proved incredibly challenging for Lapierre. He missed the vast majority of the season rehabbing a worrying spinal injury that was originally misdiagnosed as another concussion issue. He scored just 2 goals and 15 assists in the 19 games he did play. While Lapierre told TSN’s Mark Masters in April that he feels he’ll “be back stronger than ever next year,” NHL teams need only look at Nolan Patrick and dozens of other players for evidence of how difficult it can be to rebound from dealing with the debilitating effects of post-concussion issues and other related traumas.
With all that under consideration, it’s still impossible to ignore Lapierre’s massive upside. Touted by TSN’s Craig Button as “a top-five player if he can return to full health” and “the best two-way player in the draft,” Lapierre possesses offensive and defensive qualities that should make teams very excited. He’s sometimes a little too keen on passing (see: Alex Tanguay), but he still boasts incredible hockey IQ and usually makes the right play for every situation. Lapierre also has great skating ability, a low centre of gravity that allows him to bang away in the corners, and a good compete level off the puck.
As mentioned, Steve Kournianos raved about Lapierre’s offensive instincts in his write-up at The Draft Analyst:
Lapierre is a superior playmaker with off-the-charts IQ and vision. He is the quintessential “makes everyone around him better”, except the term “better” should be replaced with “dangerous” — especially on the power play. Lapierre passes the puck around with precision in all three zones and his efforts in his own end assist defensemen during the breakout. There’s not a selfish bone in Lapierre’s body, and although some might say he’s guilty overpassing, it’s hard to fault Lapierre when the shots he passes up are actually less dangerous than the prime scoring chances his vision and playmaking create.
Benoit Belanger of McKeen’s had this to say about Lapierre’s vision (subscribers only for the full article):
Here is why I think of Hendrix Lapierre when I think of the best forwards for the 2020 draft; his intelligence on the ice. Particularly when he has a chance to make a play. His way of moving his opponents to give himself space or open a passing line reminds a bit of a chess player who prepares his shots in advance.
Happy Rivard of Hockey Wilderness summed up Lapierre’s status as a prospect here:
Hendrix Lapierre has a few red flags, including injuries and a lack of progress production-wise, and will likely be a risky pick. But he has shown flashes of brilliance, such as his tournament play last summer at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, where he looked like one of the best prospects in the world, and was deemed by TSN’s Craig Button as the third-best prospect for the draft last July.
Lapierre posted 13 goals and 45 points in 48 games as a 16-year-old for Chicoutimi in 2018–19, good enough to finish second in scoring on a pretty successful QMJHL team. He exploded at the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky tournament, finishing second only to Cole Perfetti in scoring with three goals and 11 points in five games.
He recorded just two goals and 17 points in 19 QMJHL games this season, missing most of it to injury. But it’s impossible to look past his impressive age-16 numbers. 20 of his 45 points that year came on the power play, a figure which tied for the lead on the Sagueneens. Make of that what you will.
Availability and fit
A highly-skilled centre is one of the items at the very top of the Flames’ shopping list for the future. Lapierre is a left-handed shot, something the Flames possess in spades, but otherwise, he checks off a lot of boxes for them. He’s decently-sized and he would instantly become their top centre prospect, failing unforeseen progression from Adam Ruzicka and Emilio Pettersen.
Craig Button raves about Lapierre and he has him way up at 10th on his final list, well out of the Flames’ reach. Bob McKenzie has Lapierre at 15th, while ISS and McKeen’s have him at 17th and 20th, respectively. However, Lapierre has slid quite far on FC Hockey and Dobber Hockey’s lists, checking in at 27th on the former and 28th on the latter.