Connor McMichael to make NHL debut with Tom Wilson out originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
Capitals 2019 first-round draft pick Connor McMichael will make his NHL debut on Sunday against the Buffalo Sabres, head coach Peter Laviolette said during his pregame media availability.
Already shorthanded with four players on the COVID-19 protocol-related absence list, Tom Wilson will miss Sunday's game due to a lower-body injury. He is considered day-to-day.
With Wilson out, Laviolette was forced to choose between dressing 11 forwards and seven defensemen or adding an extra forward like McMichael. He chose the latter.
Laviolette said he spoke briefly with McMichael on making his debut, but expects him to adjust quickly.
"We talked quick in the locker room. It was more of just a message to relax and have fun, enjoy it," Laviolette said. "He's worked hard to get to this point and he's a good player. Just talked about some of his strengths and where he can contribute, the line he would be playing with and more just not to be nervous, he's ready for this. Just go out and play the game and do what he's done in the past. If you can send a kid out a little bit easier about it sometimes it's better for him, but I often find that once you get through the anthem and the first shift, it's just hockey after that. He's going to realize he's been doing this all his life and go out and play a good game for us."
McMichael just began skating with the team this week when it returned from its season-opening four-game road swing. McMichael was previously in quarantine for seven days after returning from the World Junior Championship.
Last season in the OHL, McMichael tallied 102 points in 52 games with the London Knights.
As exciting as his debut may be, getting points from this game may be a tall task for Washington. WIth no Wilson, the Caps will be without a full line of top-six forwards with Wilson, Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov all out, plus a top-four defenseman in Dmitry Orlov and starting goalie Ilya Samsonov.
Vitek Vanecek will get the start Sunday and defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk will make his Capitals debut.