Hendrix Lapierre represents a high risk, high reward player as a first-round draft pick. He’s a forward the Canadiens are likely to know much about since he’s played in the QMJHL the past two seasons.
Height: 5’11 1/2″
CSB (North American): 13
Elite Prospects: 27
McKeen’s Hockey: 20
Hockey Prospectus: 27
Future Considerations: 27
The Hockey News: 28
TSN (Button): 10
TSN (McKenzie): 15
The Athletic (Pronman): 20
As a rookie in the 2018-19 season, Lapierre scored 45 points in 48 games and was named to the All-Rookie team in the league, as well as being crowned Offensive Rookie of the Year. He played on the wing for most of his rookie season. Hendrix was the most dominant player in the 2019 Hlinka-Gretzky tournament last summer. As the centre for top prospect Cole Perfetti, he led the tournament with three goals and eight assists in only five games. This led many scouts to talk about Hendrix as a potential top-five candidate for the 2020 draft.
Lapierre’s 2019-20 season got derailed in October when he was injured due to a high hit. The initial diagnosis was a concussion which was troubling since he was injured in February of that year with a concussion. He was cleared to play in November, then played six more games before another concussion. Due to the seriousness of his combined injuries his last game played was November 21st, which unfortunately gave scouts little opportunities to see him play that season. A later report from his agent stated he was recovering from a neck injury, which made his situation less clear in a way. It’s not clear to me if he suffered both a neck injury and a concussion, or only a neck injury, or only a concussion. He was reportedly close to ready to returning to play when the pandemic shut down the QMJHL season.
When it comes to skill levels, Hendrix ranks very high in several categories. In particular, his playmaking, stick handling and passing are all at elite levels. His skating is also very good, both in terms of acceleration, speed and mobility, although his stride is not ideal. He loves to carry the puck, and is deadly in one-on-one situations, able to undress a defender. His shot is good, but he could use more velocity to gain an advantage at the next level. That will come to him after he gains more strength. Improving that will also make him more deceptive since defenders will not expect him to always pass the puck. His hockey sense is also good, but sometimes he does not adapt to the play in front of him, which indicates he’s only interested in executing his plan ‘A’ and does not have a plan ‘B’.
Lapierre is above average defensively, since he reads the opponents play well and can react to it and thwart the play. He also fared well at the faceoff dot where he won 52% of his draws this season. He was used on the penalty killing unit due to these skills, and his ability to stick check an opponent to turn over the puck.
When it comes to projecting Lapierre as a pro, he is the type of player that should develop into a top-two line centre. It’s difficult to say if he could be converted to a winger and be successful (similar to what the Habs and Arizona have tried unsuccessfully with Max Domi). For other top prospects who play centre, it’s much easier to project some of them succeeding as a winger at the professional level, such as Cole Perfetti or Dylan Holloway.
Although Hendrix has top-end talent, there is obviously much concern about his health and the seriousness of his injuries. The latter could scare some NHL teams from selecting him in the first round; with that in mind, it’s possible he could drop into the top of the second round where a team would consider gambling on him. His injuries limited him to only nineteen games this season, so a return to his junior team is very likely the recommendation for any NHL team that drafts him. A full healthy season where he dominates the league is exactly what Hendrix needs next, and that would also help improve his conditioning and strength which took a step back from the multiple injuries. If that happens he could be ready for breaking into the NHL for the 2021-22 season.