Player: Hendrix Lapierre
Team: Chicoutimi Saguenéens (QMJHL)
Today we’ll be looking at Hendrix Lapierre, a centre who’s arguably the second best player in the QMJHL eligible for the 2020 NHL Draft behind Alexis Lafreniere. Lapierre, former first overall QMJHL draft pick, made a name for himself at the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, where his 11 points in five games placed only behind linemate Cole Perfetti for the tournament lead, while his eight assists led the tournament by a relatively wide margin. Hendrix is a skilled and intelligent playmaker, and we’ll be examining his skillset using the following six attributes: Skating, Puck Skills, Passing Ability, Hockey Sense, Shooting Ability, and Physicality.
Grades are laid out on a scale that reads as follows:
20 – Terrible
25 – Very Poor
30 – Poor
35 – Bad
40 – Well-below Average
45 – Below Average
50 – Average
55 – Above Average
60 – High-end
65 – Elite
70 – World Class
75 – Special
80 – Generational
Lapierre’s skating ability is roughly average, as his top-end speed is nothing remarkable and his first step acceleration is inconsistent at times. However, he’s quite smooth on his edges and can shift his weight in order to evade checkers and maintain a level of elusiveness. In the clip below, you can see both dimensions of Lapierre’s skating ability, as his acceleration and speed are not enough to pull away and create separation from back checkers, though, his agility and shiftiness allow him to evade a checker before curling back into the neutral zone. His lack of speed denies what could have been a scoring chance while his agility allowed him to maintain possession of the puck for his team (#12 in Gold):
Overall, his speed and quickness appeared to be improved during his time at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup in early August for Canada, which will be something to look for as he transitions to league play in 2019-20 with Chicoutimi. Although the clip above shows his lack of speed, it does also show a glimpse into what is truly Hendrix’s separating quality from his peers.
Puck Skills: 65
Lapierre’s greatest asset on the offensive side of the puck are his elite level hands. He’s a gifted puck handler that can generate zone entries and offensive opportunities by beating defenders with quick moves. Hendrix can dangle from a standstill, in full-stride, and in traffic; he can do it all while also being capable of dictating the pace of play despite not having high-end skating ability. In the clip below, you can see how dangerous Lapierre can be in the transition game; he makes a defender miss in the neutral zone while maintaining a level of elusiveness as he cradles the puck over the blue line, leading to a scoring chance for his linemate after putting a shot on goal (#92 in White):
His puck skills allow him to dictate the pace of play, as he’s able to control the puck for extended periods of time and play elusively with the puck on his stick. In the offensive zone, his hands are always moving and he’s a very creative attacker, as he loves to use his hands to change angles on defenders and goaltenders to open up both passing lanes and shooting lanes alike. In the clip below, you can see how Lapierre’s skill brings an extra level of danger to his goal-scoring ability. He cradles the puck to evade a defender while simultaneously changing the angle on the netminder before beating him short side (#12 in Gold):
Despite his lack of high-end speed, his hands allow him to play with a dynamic element to his game. Lapierre is shifty, creative, and deceptive with the puck on his stick, while his hand-eye ability allows him to react quickly and make skilled plays on the puck. In the clip below, you can see how Lapierre’s hand-eye coordination allows him to react quickly to convert on a scoring chance. He is able to bat down the puck in the slot after an errant feed from a teammate and is able to bury the puck on the Rimouski netminder by batting the puck out of the air (#92 in Blue):
His puck skills allow him the benefit of being a dual-threat as both a playmaker and goal scorer, however, the latter is truly the bread and butter of his offensive effectiveness.
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. In the clip below, Lapierre is able to secure a zone entry by evading a checker at the offensive blue line before cradling the puck along the right boards and finding his teammate in the slot for a quick one-time goal. The pass is hard and accurate, and Kotkov makes no mistake (#68 in Blue, don’t ask me why):
No matter where he is on the ice, Lapierre is a premier passer because of how well he sees the ice. His vision is top-notch, and in turn, he’s a lethal player on the power play. Offense ran through Lapierre on Chicoutimi’s powerplay last season, and the clip below is a perfect example of what he was able to bring to Chicoutimi’s powerplay on a nightly basis. Lapierre is an excellent offensive weapon along the half wall and on this play, you can see how he surveys the zone before sending a bullet pass across the seam (#92 in White):
Lapierre can also make effortless passes while on the move, as he’s superb at making plays both on the rush and off the cycle in the offensive zone. In this clip, you can see how he’s able to collect the puck in the corner before curling and sending an accurate pass in front to a teammate, threading the needle through the sticks of the opposition’s defenders (#92 in White):
The clip below is also an example of how Lapierre can set up teammates on the rush, as he’s able to wait out a defenseman before sending a perfect pass across to finish off the 2-on-1 (#92 in Gray):
The clip above really is the culmination of what makes Lapierre such an exciting prospect. His puck skills allow him to keep the puck moving to make both the defender and netminder hesitate while his passing ability allows him to send over a crisp, accurate pass to his teammate. Lapierre’s patience and smarts are also what allowed that play to develop the way it did.
Hockey Sense: 65
Lapierre’s playmaking ability and offensive upside is enhanced by how well he reads the play and sees the ice with the puck on his stick. On top of being a skilled and creative attacker, he’s also a very smart attacker and understands how to break down coverage and can react quickly to what the opposition is showing him. Off the rush, he’s often able to notice when defenders and back checkers are over-committing or playing out of position, and he’s able to read and react appropriately. In the following clip, he reads an over-commitment from the defenseman and is able to take advantage of the open space in the middle of the ice with a quick, accurate pass (#92 in White):
In this clip, Lapierre does the same, as he stops up quickly in order to take advantage of an over-challenging defenseman and feed the puck through the open ice (#92 in Gray):
Lapierre is such a smart attacker that it makes him a harder player for defenses to account for. Give him too much space and he’ll find an avenue to attack through with his skill and passing ability; play him too tight and he’ll react accordingly and dish the puck to a teammate in open ice. He’s constantly reading and reacting, and can consistently make plays and passes that catch both netminders and defenders off guard. In the clip below, he corrals a blocked shot in the slot and, rather than immediately turning and firing the puck, he has the poise to send a soft backhand pass to a teammate for an easy goal (#92 in White):
Lapierre is incredibly poised and is seemingly able to slow the game down for himself in order to make the right play with the puck. He reads what the defense is giving him, and is often able to react accordingly.
Though the bread and butter of Lapierre’s offensive game is his playmaking ability, he does have a dual-threat as a goal scorer as well. His shot is not in the upper echelon of this draft class, but it is very good and he can beat netminders when given an opportunity to shoot. Lapierre owns a quick release on his shot and can catch and release the puck in a hurry when it’s given to him in the middle of the ice. In the clip below, you can see how quickly Lapierre can get the puck off his stick with both accuracy and velocity as he beats the Victoriaville netminder inside the post (#92 in Blue):
His release is the best attribute of his shot, though his power allows him at times, to beat goaltenders from distance. When given time to shoot from the dots he doesn’t often pass up the opportunity, which you can see him do in the following clip as he steps into open space from the half boards (#92 in Blue):
Lapierre should not be mistaken for a goal scorer by nature, but he’s more than capable when put in a position to shoot, which heightens his offensive upside and dynamism on the ice.
Lapierre is not undersized in the traditional sense, however, he does own a slight frame at approximately 5’11” and 172 lbs. There are times Lapierre shows decent ability at protecting the puck and staying strong on his skates, however, more likely than not, he can lose puck battles to larger opponents and be muscled off the puck. Playing with physicality is not where Lapierre excels, nor is it the kind of player he is, as he operates by beating his opposition with skill and quick wit rather than with imposing size and strength.
All in all, Lapierre is an elite talent that is likely to be discussed among the top centres in the 2020 Class throughout the 2019-2020 season. He is entering his second season with the Chicoutimi Saguenéens, Lapierre will look to build upon his rookie campaign that saw him put up 32 assists and 45 points in 48 games played. At this time, a Top 10-15 selection seems likely for the young Canadian centre, with a chance to creep into the periphery of the Top 5 discussion pending a big season in the QMJHL in 2019-2020.