Aylmer’s Hendrix Lapierre looks at hockey future
Moving closer to the 2020 National Hockey League (NHL) Draft, Aylmer
hockey prodigy Hendrix Lapierre isn’t as concerned about which
organization he lands in as he is with showing that he deserves to play
at the highest level. “Maybe I’ll go in the first round, maybe not,” he
said. “We’ll see what happens. What I can tell you is that I’ll be ready
for training camp wherever I go and I’ll be ready to prove to everyone
that I’m 100 per cent healthy and ready to go.”
Lapierre is the 13th ranked draft-eligible North American skater, going into the draft, according to NHL.com. Listed at six feet tall, 181 pounds, Lapierre is known as a dynamic play-making centre with elite puck moving abilities. Expecting to hear his name called at some point in the first two rounds, Lapierre said he is extremely excited to be on the verge of actualizing his childhood dream.
Still uncertain as to whether the draft will be held virtually - like with the National Football League - or in person, Lapierre said that being picked by an NHL team will be extremely significant no matter how it happens. “All the teams are very nice,” he said. “Just being drafted in the NHL, it’s really special.”
Growing up in Aylmer, Lapierre started playing his minor hockey locally before joining the Outaouais Intrépide in Pee Wee. “Playing for a small region like Aylmer, you know almost all the people in the association and that’s really fun,” he said. “I’ve always enjoyed being in Aylmer and it’s always going to be my hometown.” Lapierre then evolved to star in the Intrépide’s Bantam AAA program for a couple of seasons before joining its Midget AAA team in 2017-18.
In his lone Midget AAA season, Lapierre wowed talent-evaluators with 57 points (17 goals, 40 assists) in just 35 regular season games, adding 10 points in nine playoff appearances. Consequentially, Lapierre was selected first overall in the 2018 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) Draft, by the Chicoutimi Saguenéens. In his first season in Chicoutimi, as a 16-year-old rookie, Lapierre put up an impressive 45 points in 48 regular season games in a season that was unfortunately cut short by a shoulder injury.
The following summer, Lapierre notched a jaw-dropping 11 points in five games representing Team Canada at the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup in the Czech Republic - solidifying his position as an NHL top prospect. “It’s always special to wear the Team Canada jersey,” he said. “It was actually my first time because I was injured during the U-17 world championships. It was an unbelievable experience.”
“I think it really helped me because there are so many good players and it showed me that if you want to have success you have to work your ass off,” he added. “You have to do the little things right.” However, coming off a difficult draft year in Chicoutimi – limited to only 19 appearances because of injuries and the pandemic – Lapierre’s durability raised plenty of red flags from NHL scouts. “Obviously, it wasn’t the draft year I was expecting,” he said. “At the beginning of the year, if you would’ve told me you’re only going to play 19 games this year and a virus is going to cancel the season, I would’ve looked at you and said ‘Come on, that can’t be happening.’”
“But it’s what happened,” he added. “Being a passionate guy, I wanted to play this year. It really sucks not being able to play. But I think I did everything in my power to get back stronger. I was ready to actually play in the playoffs.” Boasting undeniable offensive skill and playmaking ability, along with the injuries, some well-reputed scouts have dubbed Lapierre as the biggest wildcard in this year’s draft.
Unable to play the game he loved, unable to prove to scouts what he was made of for a large chunk of what was arguably the most important season of his career, Lapierre said watching his teammates play while he sat out was never easy. “When I was in the stands, I wasn’t feeling like I was helping the team and myself for the draft,” he said. “It was kind of hard.”
Back with his family in Aylmer, Lapierre said he’s been training every day, focused on coming back much stronger than he was last year. “I’m shooting pucks a lot,” he said. “I’m trying to work on my shot. Right before we left Chicoutimi, they actually gave us a little training package with elastics and all that stuff. We have all the things necessary to work out and it’s been pretty good so far. He added that his focus is currently to stay in shape and be prepared for whatever happens next, noting that he’s working to improve his defensive and physical aspects of play.
As far as his expectations for next season, Lapierre said he looks forward to going back to Chicoutimi where he expects to play an important role on a playoff contending team. “I just want to show what I’m made of, be a leader for the team as much as I can and have a great season, not get injured and I’m very confident that will happen with what I’m doing right now.”
If the stars align right, Lapierre added that he would love the opportunity to represent Canada at the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship on home soil in 2021. “If I’m not mistaken, next year it’s in Canada,” he said. “So, that would be pretty cool. I think it would be an unbelievable experience.” While he wasn’t happy with the coronavirus outbreak cutting his season short just when he got healthy for playoffs, Lapierre said that the pandemic has provided a silver lining. “I really like Aylmer,” he said. “It’s my spot. I was really sad about the outbreak. But one thing that was positive was coming here and spending time with my family.”
Originally from the region, Lapierre said that he would be thrilled with an opportunity to be selected by his hometown Ottawa Senators - who hold three first round picks including the 21st overall selection. “That would be so special,” he said. “People are saying they have three first round picks and all that stuff. It kind of gets in my head. It would be nice to be drafted by Ottawa. I’d say it’s the team that I’ve watched the most play. I’ve gone to a couple of games as a kid. So, it would be incredible.”
No matter how hard the journey has been, Lapierre said he’s very grateful to be in the position he’s in and extremely thankful for his family for being his biggest fans every step of the way. “Even though this was a hard year, they always supported me,” he said. With social distancing measures still in effect, the selection process for the 2020 National Hockey League (NHL) draft remains largely uncertain. But ranked as high as 10th on one amateur scout’s rankings, Lapierre expects to hear his name called at some point, whenever and wherever the draft takes place.