There is an inherent risk with any player picked in the NHL Entry Draft. The majority of players are 17 or 18 years old; and teams have to identify and believe whether they can develop their game to a point where they can play professionally never mind contribute to their team. As much as I appreciate and endorse efforts to find the proverbial signals among the noise, there is always going to be a risk that a player does or does not make it in the future. When that young player has a history of injuries before they are even 19 years old, there is even more risk. Especially when those injuries involve multiple concussions. It is from this perspective that I think the subject of today’s prospect profile is the biggest wild card and the most unpredictable among the prospects available for 2020 NHL Entry Draft: Chicoutimi Saguenéens center Hendrix Lapierre.
Who is Hendrix Lapierre?
Based on his page at Elite Prospects, Hendrix Lapierre was born on February 9, 2002 and hails from Gatineau, Quebec. He is officially listed at six feet tall, 181 pounds, and has a left-handed shot. Lapierre was a highly touted player coming out of bantam and midget AAA hockey. So much so that Chicoutimi drafted him first overall in the 2018 QMJHL Entry Draft.
He made an instant impact. Lapierre finished the 2018-19 season tied for sixth in rookie scoring in the league with 13 goals, 32 assists, 102 shots, and 46 dangerous shots (the Q has dangerous shots on their stats page again!) for 45 points. Unlike the other rookies, Lapierre accomplished this in 48 games. Further, his rate of primary points (goals and first assists) per game was 0.708 per Pick224. Only Alexis Lafrenière had a higher (a way higher 1.278) rate among draft year-minus one players that season in the QMJHL. Only 14 players in the world had a higher primary point per game rate in that same season. In other words, Lapierre’s produciton should be seen as impressive. The league agreed. As noted on his Elite Prospects page, he was named to the All-Rookie Team as well as the league’s Offensive Rookie of the Year.
However, one cannot ignore that he only played in 48 games in the 2018-19 season. As noted in this November 21, 2019 post at NHL.com by Guillamme Lepage, Lapierre suffered a shoulder injury in October 2018 and his first concussion in major junior hockey in February 2019. He returned to finish off Chicoutimi’s season and played in their playoff series loss to Rimouski. All appeared to be good from that point onward.
Lapierre really caught a lot of attention last Summer at the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup. More than just being a member of Canada’s under-18 roster, Lapierre was a star in that tourney. He put up three goals and eight assists in five games. Only Cole Perfetti out-scored him and that was by just one point. The Hlinka Gretzky Cup is a very visible tourney for draft eligible prospects. Lapierre definitely put his best foot forward for the first major event of the draft season. You could call it a dream of a start.
Yet, the 2019-20 season ended up being a nightmare for Lapierre. He suffered another concussion on October 23 according to Lepage’s article. That was his second concussion of 2019. Also according to Lepage’s article, he only missed four games and then went right back to action. Then on November 21, another hit to the head in a collision during a game against Moncton that was initially thought and reported as a concussion. a He was ruled out indefinitely as of November 22 per Mikaël Lalancette of TVA. That would be his third concussion of 2019, about eight months after the one he suffered in February in the prior season. According to this April 3, 2020 post at Future Considerations by Josh Bell, Lapierre was working out and trying to make a comeback before the global COVID-19 pandemic shut down the QMJHL and hockey. Lapierre’s season ended with just 19 games played, two goals, fifteen assists, 44 shots, and 23 dangerous shots. Most of those points were primary points, but it is a small gross total given that Lapierre was unable to play for most of the season.
If the QMJHL and Chicoutimi were playing games now, then Lapierre could play. Renaud Lavoie of TVA Sports reported on Twitter on April 15 that he was cleared. More interestingly was that Lavoie stated he was cleared from a “cervical dysfunction (neck injury).” That is not the same as a concussion. Lavoie went into more detail in this post (in French) at TVA Sports on the same day, emphasizing that the injury that caused the center to miss most of last season was not a concussion but a neck injury. Lavoie also pointed out that Antoine Vermette, Matthew Lombardi, and Simon Gagne had that same kind of injury and went on to have NHL careers. That is an important distinction. It eases the concerns that would naturally come for any player who has had three concussions in eight months.
Yet, this still makes Lapierre more of a question mark than anything else. When he has been able to play for Chicoutimi, he has been productive player. He picked up a high rate of assists while still shooting the puck a decent amount. However, he has spent a lot of time out with multiple severe injuries in a short time span. The neck may be fine now but who is to say that future neck injuries could not happen again? It may have not been a concussion, but he still had two within a year’s timeframe prior to the cervical dysfunction. It could shorten his own life much less any kind of hockey career. And with the QMJHL season and playoffs cancelled, Lapierre has no opportunity to show whether he really is 100% (or 150% per Lavoie’s post) on the ice. He is still set on pursuing a career in hockey; Bell’s article makes that clear. I wish him the best. But his injury history alone makes him the most unpredictable player in this draft class.
Where is Hendrix Lapierre Ranked?
Lapierre being out with his third concussion in 2019 for most of the 2019-20 campaign has saw his draft stock fall during the season. However, it has not been a total drop across the board. There is plenty of variation among publicly available rankings.
- #13 North American Skater - Central Scouting Services (April 8, 2020 - Final Ranking)
- #27 - Elite Prospects Top 31 (February 2020 ranking)
- #26 - Future Considerations (March 1, 2020 ranking)
- NR - McKeen’s (Mid-season rankings from January 18, 2020 via EliteProspects)
- #17 - International Scouting Services (March 2020 ranking via EliteProspects)
- #27 - Hockey Prospect (January 16, 2020 ranking)
- #16 - TSN.ca - Bob McKenzie (Mid-season ranking from January 30, 2020)
- #10 - TSN.ca - Craig Button (March 30, 2020 ranking)
- #69 - Steve Kournianos, The Draft Analyst (March 2, 2020 ranking)
- #16 - NHL.com - Mike G. Morreale (March 6, 2020 ranking)
- #20 - Sportsnet - Sam Cosentino (April 8, 2020 ranking)
- #34 - Dobber Prospects - Cam Robinson (April 1, 2020 ranking)
- #36 - The Hockey Writers - Josh Bell (February 28, 2020 ranking)
- #24 - The Hockey Writers - Andrew Forbes (March 14, 2020 ranking)
- #19 - The Hockey Writers - Larry Fisher (April 6, 2020 ranking)
- #31 - Tony Ferrari of Dobber Prospects (March 30, 2020 ranking)
Despite missing most of 2019-20 with his very well-known concussion issues, most ranks list Lapierre in the range of a first round pick. Mostly a late first rounder, but a first rounder all the same.
I was surprised to see that even in fairly recent rankings from Sam Consentino, Larry Fisher, and International Scouting Services, they regard Lapierre more as a mid-first round talent. They clearly like enough of what he has done in spite of his injuries. I expected more rankings like the ones from Elite Prospects, Hockey Prospect, and Future Considerations. In those, he is a first rounder, but a late one and one that could reasonably slip into the second round. This would align with Central Scouting Services’ rankings from earlier in the month. Thirteenth among North American skaters would likely place him in the twenties when you add in European skaters and Yaroslav Askarov. Surprising to me, his ranking did not slip from their midterm rankings, where he was also ranked thirteenth among North American skaters.
The extremes are also worth noting. The most positive ranking is clearly from Craig Button’s recent list. Button is clearly a fan; likely from his Hlinka Gretzky Cup performance. But I think tenth is a big, big stretch and he is the only one to make such a stretch. At the opposite extreme, Steve Kournianos has been the only one to publicly dump him down into a third round range. He was #41 on his midseason list and #32 in his December rankings; his March list continues the free fall. A few people have taken him out of the Top 31, but not to a point where they think Lapierre would go deep in to the second round. I suppose one could argue that while Lapierre has been unable to help his own cause by not playing, what he has demonstrated so far is enough to keep him ahead of many other prospects.
What Others Have Said About Hendrix Lapierre
Despite Lapierre not having played much, there are enough observations written about him to get a sense of what he does on the ice. Let us begin with this profile written by Brendan Holmes over at DraftGeek. They cover drafts for the junior leagues but there are plenty of NHL-eligible profiles. Holmes wrote this one back on September 5, 2019, which would be not long after the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup. This part of the profile stuck out to me the most:
Lapierre is among the best playmakers in the 2020 Draft Class and that’s in large part due to his elite passing ability. Hendrix’s passing ability is a trifecta of strength, precision, and creativity, as he can make difficult passes with regularity to find teammates both in the slot and across the seam in the offensive zone. He has the rare skill of being equally accurate on both his backhand and forehand with his passes, which allows him to catch defenders and goaltenders by surprise with some of the passes he can make. When you combine this passing ability with his puck skills, Lapierre becomes extremely dangerous as a puck distributor.
Holmes supports this claim and his other observations with clips of Lapierre doing what he described. What is impressive is that he stated this and supported it well with clips from his 2018-19 campaign with Chicoutimi. Lapierre can certainly thread the needle with his passes as well as find a passing lane after getting around a defender one-on-one. Holmes also wrote positive things about Lapierre’s vision, his stickhandling with the puck, his intelligence on the ice, and even his shot. While Holmes makes it clear that Lapierre’s strength lies in setting up his teammates, he does note that Lapierre’s shot is good.
Holmes identified his skating as something that was not a strength in that he was not particularly fast. His edge work was otherwise fine. Holmes did note that he did seem quicker and faster at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup. Had Lapierre been able to play more and Holmes had a second look later on, perhaps he would see if that was true or not. The profile may be from a while ago, but it was written when Lapierre was an active player.
In December, Mike Sanderson of McKeen’s wrote this profile of Lapierre at Yahoo! Hockey. This was written not long after what was his then-reported third concussion (the one that turned out to be a cervical dysfunction). First, he brings up the aspects of his game:
Lapierre is one of the best playmakers available in the 2020 NHL Draft. His ability to hit the open man consistently is equaled by few in this class. He also possesses elite hockey sense to be in the right place all the time and to play aggressively without sacrificing without the puck.
He is very talented with the puck and can play in all situations. His skating is very good, especially his edgework, and he changes speeds very well to force the defense to make a move, where his hands can finish the job.
His play style dramatically tilts to a passer over a shooter, but he is one of the best in the class at maximizing the talent of his linemates. He will make a career of getting his linemates paid with good statistics.
Sanderson’s observations do align mostly with what Holmes wrote about him in September. Sanderson notes how Lapierre is a playmaker and can elevate his linemates with his passing and his vision. Unlike Holmes, Sanderson highlights Lapierre’s skating as a strength. That he specifically notes how he “changes speeds” could be a development Holmes was not able to observe back then. These are all qualities that explain why Lapierre, to use Sanderson’s term, is a “special player.”
Then, Sanderson brings up the injuries. Based on what was then known (and still is known), he acknowledges that it is a major issue. He brings up Zachary Lauzon, a prospect who retired from hockey at the age of 20 and never played beyond juniors due to multiple concussions. While he does note that players like Patrice Bergeron and Sidney Crosby were able to return from major concussion issues and be effective players, but that took a lot of time. It is appropriately framed as a concern for Lapierre himself, beyond Lapierre as a player. Sanderson concludes by stating he would be worth the risk as a first round pick. More recent rankings would agree with that.
Also in December, Ben Kerr at the Last Word on Hockey released his midseason top 31 rankings for the 2020 NHL Draft class with short summaries for each prospect. Lapierre made it in at 20th, in the fourth part of his rankings. Here is what Kerr highlighted about Lapierre:
Lapierre is very difficult to defend as he can handle the puck while moving at close to his top speed. He has very good hockey IQ and sees the ice extremely well. Lapierre is a creative playmaker who creates scoring chances for his linemates. He can pass the puck through tight openings and hits teammates on the tape. Lapierre’s ability to speed up the play or to slow it down allows him to control the pace of the game. He sets up on the half boards on the power play and acts as a quarterback. He could stand to increase his strength in order to battle along the boards as well as add some power to his shot.
Kerr cites Lapierre’s stickhandling as an asset and even notes he can do this at speed - which is a plus. (Holmes’ clips support this.) As with Sanderson’s and Holmes’ profile, Kerr comes away from viewing Lapierre with plenty of good things to say about how he reads plays for passes and how he executes those plays. Kerr does bring up that he could stand to be stronger, which is true for a lot of prospects and, curiously, for his shot. This was not noted as an issue by others; maybe Kerr saw something different? It is possible as he also praised Lapierre’s “outstanding” top speed too.
As a final set of opinions, check this profile out by Kyle Pereira of Puck Prose from March 21. He received a shift-by-shift video of Lapierre and documented his own observations. He made special note of how Lapierre would switch sides on the power play and he was not at all shy about shooting the puck. That could be a small plus for his future; coaches could move him around as needed on special teams. Pereira also noted some specific negatives; that he appeared to dangle too much with the puck and not have his stick on the ice when he should have been. They are correctable - Pereira stated as such - but that is what he noted.
Unlike the other profiles, Pereira paid attention to Lapierre’s play off the puck. He came away with plenty of good things. Pereira stated that Lapierre’s active stick is effective on backchecks and in supporting the defensive effort as well as it is on the forecheck. He does not come back to his own zone and wait around; he is actively involved as per Pereira’s observations. That is something I particularly appreciate. As much as I enjoy seeing praise for an offensive player’s offensive game, knowing he tries to take care of things on defense fills me with more confidence.
Pereira makes the following conclusion from his viewing:
To me, LaPierre is extremely well-balanced and checks just about every box. He needs to build up certain aspects of his game, but overall, is a solid all-around prospect. The issue is his injury proneness. The concussions can really hurt his overall play, and if he continues getting them, he could have an extremely short career, if he even makes the NHL with them. All-in-all, if things go well, he could be an NHL-capable player within 3 years. However, if things don’t go his way, he may never see the NHL-level, as injuries could derail his career.
LaPierre has incredible potential. Again, he is extremely well-rounded, and he could easily slot in as a 1st line player if he hits his full potential. However, I don’t see him being considered elite, even if he grows well. He could also be a great penalty killer and a solid power play specialist. At worst, injuries aside, he could be a solid two-way 3rd line center, with penalty kill opportunities.
This is a tantalizing conclusion. It accounts for a potential floor in addition a ceiling and based on what he seen, Lapierre seems like someone who can contribute something to a team in multiple ways - if he is able. And, knowing what we know now about his injuries, that is a big if.
A Little Video
While Lapierre did not play much in 2019-20, there are some videos of Lapierre on the ice actually playing the game of hockey. There are even some videos from his 2018-19 season, when he was named the QMJHL’s offensive rookie of the year. They may have some overlap in a few of the clips but they are worth checking out. He will be the one wearing #92.
First is Yannick St-Pierre’s profile on the Draft Dynasty channel. He is a fan of Lapierre but he does walk through the player and notes assets and issues as they come up. For example, he notes that Lapierre has never been a prolific goal scorer - something I have not read elsewhere.
St-Pierre goes over his transitional game, which is effective but he notes two issues which are supported by the video. First, he could stand to be more assertive in gaining a zone entry. St-Pierre states that he tends to go wide and into the corner, taking what the defense allows instead of forcing the play down the middle. Second, Lapierre tends to think and look for a pass far too much in transition. St-Pierre thinks this part of his game needs plenty of work. I can agree; a good playmaker will recognize that the best play is to just take the initiative to shoot. I was surprised to hear St-Pierre state that he does not think Lapierre’s shot is good. I am not sure I fully agree with that even with the clips provided. Sure, he can work on it to improve it; but between a fairly low shot volume and few games played, I feel like it is more incomplete than anything else.
From that point (about 3:52 in), St-Pierre focuses more on why he is such a fan of the player. His tendency to pass a lot is justified through all of the successful passes he can make. Not only were the passes on point, but he was smoothly in stride in all of them. Lapierre is not someone who has to set himself to make a difficult pass, which is another plus. Regardless of whether he was in space or covered (the pass at 4:44!!), he can move the puck effectively - even if it does not look like the lane or the pass is available. His conclusion is that he can be dangerous.
St-Pierre does appropriately state that his injuries are problematic and he really needs to bulk up. He notes that he has been pushed around on the ice and does not do well in puck battles. While that is addressable, the previous injuries are a massive red flag. As much as he acknowledges how great he was at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, St-Pierre did not think he improved much since then and so there are multiple red flags. I have to agree with that and I think most would, even if his own take on the player differs from how others have seen him.
Second comes from HSD Prospects, which has a traditional highlight video of Lapierre from his 2018-19 season and his 2019-20 season. The 2019-20 season video is below, and is obviously not as long as the 2018-19 season video:
With just two goals this season, this is about 4:12 of assists. The multiple assists include primary and secondary assists. Some helped start a rush up ice for a score, some were simple looking puck movements that put his teammates in great spots (e.g. 2:52), some were just ridiculous passes, and they all were made when he sought to do so regardless of the opposition’s pressure. What I took away from this was that Lapierre was able to make the play happen from different parts of the ice. I do not know if he prefers a certain side or spot, but whether it was from the point, behind the goal line, from either corner, from the neutral zone, or in the middle of the ice, Lapierre was made successful passes from all spots for shots - and goals. Knowing he can find success from multiple locations in the offensive zone will make it easier for him to contribute on offense either off the rush or when the team is set up in the zone.
An Opinion of Sorts
When I was putting this profile together, I kept wondering: “Should he even play hockey at all?” The recent news that his most recent injury was a neck injury and not another concussion eases some of the fears with his concussions. Still, within the last two seasons, Lapierre has had a shoulder injury, at least one concussion, and a cervical dysfunction. That is a lot for one player to come back from, much less someone who suffered these injuries when he was 16 and 17 years old. It is enough to wonder whether pursuing professional hockey is a wise decision. I know that is a moot point as Lapierre intends to play, he wants to be picked this year, and he was recently cleared to return to hockey whenever hockey returns. It is his body and his choice. Not mine. But it is absolutely a concern and any team even thinking about picking Lapierre needs to accept his significant injury history so far and the possibility it could get worse in the future. As much as player interviews Any medical evaluation from a combine or a workout may be more important than any interview if/when there is a NHL Draft Combine. From the perspective of a team looking to draft him, they need to be comfortable with what he has suffered with - and what could come as a result of it. That is true for all prospects with recent injuries, but it is especially crucial with respect to Lapierre.
After putting all of this together, I do think that teams may try to do that. Or at least consider it. Or, worse, talk themselves into it. Lapierre has plenty of talent. There are some disagreements as to whether his shot is an asset or not, or whether he needs to be more assertive on the ice, or whether his skating and hands are very positive traits or just above average. I do not think anyone will argue that he could stand to bulk up more and seek to shoot more often either. But it is agreed that Lapierre’s vision and ability to make passes is fantastic. It will likely be what makes him stand out at the next level and it is a talent that tends to come at a premium. Further, whenever Lapierre has been able to play, he has been productive and a contributor on the ice. He proved that with Chicoutimi last season and in this season; and he showed he can be the top player on a stacked Canadian under-18 team at the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup. Lapierre can play the game, he has a tremendous of upside, and possibly a solid floor at that. This is the kind of player that would easily go in the first round in any draft under normal circumstances.
That is the issue: Lapierre’s situation is not normal. It is not common for prospects to suffer multiple injuries like Lapierre, much less very talented ones. While it is not his fault that he has been hurt, players are picked to contribute and they cannot do that if they are unable to play. Whoever takes him needs to ensure any confidence that he will be able to play in the future and accept there could be a risk that he may not depending on any future injury. Their prospect pool needs to be deep enough such that if Lapierre is not able to progress, they are not devoid of talent in their system. The thing is that the big risk could yield a big reward, such that bloggers and fans like me will have to try and recall why he did not go any higher in his draft year should Lapierre hit his potential in as a significant producer in the NHL. No matter what anyone says, you can never have too many offensively talented prospects. And if he works out, he will at least facilitate a lot of offense for the team, which will always be a great asset. That is a massive if, though. As much as I can see it, I can also see the real possibility he can get hurt again and to a point where he may have reconsider a career in hockey.
To that end, I consider Lapierre to be the most unpredictable prospect in this draft class. I can agree that, injuries aside, he could be worthy of a selection in the top-twenty or even top-fifteen. But with the injuries, I can agree that he could (should) just as easily end up as a mid-to-late second rounder (or even later) where a team is more willing to take a risk without expecting much reward. All prospects carry risk, but I do not think anyone else in the 2020 NHL Draft class has as much as Lapierre with his injury history on top of the other refinements he could use on the ice. The latter can be worked on and I would like to think he will as he develops. The former cannot and it can always be worse.
Personally, I do not want the Devils to take Lapierre. Not even with the Vancouver pick that they may get. I think the injury risk is too much risk to take on, I do not think the Devils’ prospect pool is deep enough to be fine should he not succeed as a prospect, and there are other offensively-talented players with far fewer red flags available for each of the Devils’ potential three first rounders in 2020. The Devils need to hit on those three first rounders and Lapierre carries too much risk of not being a hit. I would rather go with someone else with those picks. But if the Devils do use the Vancouver pick (their own or Arizona’s would be too much of a reach and I would hate seeing either used on Lapierre) or trade down to select him, then I will be cheering on for his success - which means having a hockey career at all, much less a successful one with the Devils. At least he has the coolest name in the 2020 NHL Draft class.
I think Hendrix Lapierre is the most unpredictable prospect in this year’s draft class. He clearly has a lot of desirable talent on the ice which, if refined, could lead to a great player in the future. But he has an injury history that can and possibly will scare off a lot of teams - and understandably so. I want to know what is your take on Lapierre as a prospect. What do you think of his game? What about him impresses you the most? What do you think of his injury history? Does it scare you off of him or do you think he can overcome it? Would you want the Devils to take him? What do you think he will go in this year’s draft? Leave your answers and other thoughts about Lapierre in the comments. Thank you for reading.