Prospect of Interest: Hendrix Lapierre could be steal of the draft

Chicoutimi Sagueneens forward Hendrix Lapierre. (Credit: André Émond)

Fresh off an electric performance at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup last summer, all eyes were on Hendrix Lapierre to lead Chicoutimi to the top of the QMJHL – and land himself a top-10 draft spot in the process.

Only, the 2019-20 campaign saw the talented playmaker suit up for just 19 games as he dealt with what was believed to be a pair of concussions, but was later revealed as a lingering spinal issue that had gone undiagnosed.

Without an opportunity to hit his full stride again post-recovery due to the Coronavirus pandemic cutting sports short, Lapierre is one of the most interesting players to watch as we examine the 2020 draft class.

Age: 18 (Feb. 9, 2002)
Position: Centre
Current team: Chicoutimi Saguenéens (QMJHL)
Hometown: Gatineau, Que.
Height: 6-foot
Weight: 179 pounds
Shoots: L

He’s an excellent set-up man

Selected No. 1 overall by Chicoutimi in 2018, Lapierre lived up to the expectations in his rookie year in 2018-19. His 13 goals and 32 assists through 48 games earned him the title of QMJHL offensive rookie of the year. His 45 total points saw him ranked seventh among all league rookies despite appearing in almost 20 fewer games than most of his peers. (A concussion suffered early in February 2019 sidelined him almost the entire month.)

Lapierre finished the season ranked first in assists and second in overall points on his team while also emerging as a driving force on the power play – his 16 assists with the man advantage led his teammates in the category.

He shone during the Hlinka Gretzky Cup

Lapierre grabbed hold of everyone’s attention last summer when he put together a dynamic showing at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup – an international, best-on-best tournament for players under 18. The tournament so often serves as a launching pad for prospects heading into their respective draft years, and is a marquee scouting event for exactly that reason. Lapierre registered three goals and seven assists for a tournament-leading 11 points through five games to help Canada claim silver and in doing so, he entered the 2019-20 QMJHL campaign tabbed by many as a top-10 draft pick with serious top-five potential.

https://youtu.be/lUSgqyqWdZQ

Injuries cut his draft year short

Lapierre has been forced to deal with a trio of significant injuries over the course of his two-year junior career. After making a full recovery from his Feb. 2019 concussion, Lapierre was believed to have suffered two more the following fall – the first, on Oct. 23, saw him miss less than two weeks of play after symptoms quickly subsided, and then another one month later that ultimately ended his season.

In April, Scott Wheeler of The Athletic wrote about Lapierre’s health struggles throughout the 2019-20 campaign and his journey to diagnosis of and recovery from what was actually two out-of-place vertebrae – not a pair of concussions, as was initially believed. Lapierre’s agent, Phillipe Lecavalier, told Wheeler it was a “great relief” for the young player’s future (in and outside of hockey) to know Lapierre hadn’t suffered multiple concussions.

By the time Lapierre was cleared to play in April, the remainder 2019-20 season was already cancelled – as was the Under-18 tournament scheduled for April, which could have also provided him an opportunity to show he’s back in good health and ready to put his skills on display.

He could be the steal of the draft

Lapierre’s strong on-ice resume, when combined with his run-ins with the injury bug (and the serious nature of his injuries), will ultimately make him one of the most intriguing names to watch during the lead-up to this year’s NHL draft.

After being sidelined since Nov. 21, Lapierre returned to action when the QMJHL season opened this weekend, and he scored two goals and two assists in his first game, followed by a one-goal effort in his second game. That start will surely remind GMs of Lapierre's potential and may help give him one last push up the draft board.

Despite the shortage of game tape from his draft year, Lapierre still joined (eventual winner) Alexis Lafreniere and Dawson Mercer as one of three finalists for the Michael Bossy Trophy, awarded annually to the player deemed “best professional prospect” emerging from the QMJHL. (Lafreniere took home the honours.) Past winners include Filip Zadina, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Sidney Crosby and Marc-Andre Fleury.

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