Devils Draft Series: Hendrix Lapierre, Oft-Injured Playmaking Center

Hendrix Lapierre is a wild card when it comes to this year’s draft. (Photo by Mathieu Belanger/Getty Images)

Profile

Hendrix Lapierre is an 18-year old centerman who’s listed as 6-foot, 179 pounds. The left-handed shot was born in Canada and has played his whole junior hockey career there as well. Unfortunately, as will be discussed below, he has an extensive injury history that has forced him to miss a lot of time. Despite this, he has been extremely productive while on the ice, as he is ranked 13th among North American skaters in the final 2020 Draft Prospect Rankings.

The Statistics

Lapierre began his junior career in the Quebec Bantam AA league, where he tallied 32 points in 27 games. This number led his team and the point per game average ranked 12th among 586 qualified players. The following season he played in the AAA-level of the same league, tallying 38 points in 24 games. Once again, this led his team but ranked eight among 581 qualified players. He then moved to the Quebec Midget AAA league, where he scored 57 points in only 35 games played.

In the next season, Lapierre made his much anticipated QMJHL debut. As was the theme with this season as well, he battled through a couple of different injuries and only played 48 games. However, in these games, he performed well, as he contributed 13 goals and 32 assists. Despite only playing the 48 games, this point total was second on his team, a team that went 38-22-7.

This rate of production is on par with many of the top prospects in this class in their draft minus-one seasons. For example, Quinton Byfield held a .95 point per game average in his draft minus-one season; this in comparison to Lapierre’s .94 point per game average. Though Byfield is younger than Lapierre, the point still stands.

This season was no different for Lapierre in terms of durability. He suffered another concussion, which ran his total to three in eight months. Before this, he was able to play in 19 games, where he tallied 17 points (two goals, 15 assists). He was also able to participate in the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, where he led Team Canada to a silver medal. His 11 points in only five games were second on both his team (Byfield scored five points and Seth Jarvis scored four) and in the tournament as a whole.

Lapierre’s Scouting Report

Strengths

Lapierre is a center that plays his position well, in that he excels in all parts of the ice.

His offensive abilities are led by his elite playmaking, as he is one of the best playmakers in the entire draft. This is thanks to his tremendous vision, awareness, hockey-IQ, and creativity. Some of the passes he made were so eye-popping it seemed like he has eyes in the back of his head. He has that so-called “360-degree vision.” These attributes are confirmed by his gaudy assist totals through juniors (40 in 57 games in the QMAAA, and 47 in 67 QMJHL games). 

His defensive game revolves around his innate ability to always know where he should be in his own zone. His defensive awareness and positioning are terrific. He also does a fantastic job of clearing puck proficiently from his own zone. This, of course, has a lot to do with his defensive instincts but also a nod to his stellar stickhandling abilities.

These stickhandling skills are a reason why Lapierre excels in transition. He not only leaves the defensive zone with ease but also can enter the offensive zone by himself, before setting up teammates. 

Weaknesses 

Although the focal point of his game, Lapierre’s main point of weakness is in his shooting ability. His shooting instincts are extremely poor, and this is due to his unwillingness to shoot the puck.

He has a distinct “pass-first” mentality which has led to the subpar goal total outputs each year in juniors (57 in 169 junior league games played, no more than 17 in one season). This pass-first mentality has also led to him forcing passes that he shouldn’t when in actuality he should be shooting the puck. It has gotten to the point where opposing teams are almost daring him to shoot on odd-man rushes and power plays.

His shot also just is not good. It is soft, and he just does not own that goal-scoring ability. He needs vast improvements in this area.

Here’s an example of the type of hits Lapierre has experienced.

Another area of weakness is his weight and strength. He is only 179 pounds which is not enough given he stands six-foot. This lack of strength leaves him susceptible to several big hits (see above), losses in puck battles, and a weak shot. This also directly correlates to his durability concerns. 

You cannot mention Lapierre without touching upon his injury history. As mentioned, he has suffered three concussions in the past eight months, as well as a few other injuries to his shoulder. At his age, the head injuries are a significant concern.  

Projection

If he can stay healthy, Lapierre should develop into a second-line, two-way centerman. However, without improvement to his shot, his ceiling is limited. And of course, you cannot dismiss the injuries, specifically the concussions and the long-term effects that may have on him. For this reason, he is the biggest wildcard/question mark of not only the first-round but arguably the whole draft.

There is a ton of risk in selecting Lapierre. Because of this, I would not be surprised if he drops out of the first round. However, you also cannot ignore his elite playmaking abilities and willingness to get it done in the defensive zone.

Projecting a range for him to be selected is tough due to his wild card-type nature. However, I still expect Lapierre to still be selected in round one. Possibly in the range of picks 20-25. 

Fit With the Devils

For me, Lapierre is not worth the risk. I understand in previous posts I explained the Devils can take risks due to the team’s surplus of first-round picks. However, he is also a player that is strictly a playmaker that struggles with scoring goals. This is the complete opposite of the type of prospect the Devils should target. Add in the health concerns, and the Devils should look elsewhere with the team’s projected three first-round picks. 

Ranking of Evaluated Prospects

1. Alexis Lafrenière (no profile will be released)

2. Tim Stützle (05/07/2020)

3. Quinton Byfield (05/08/2020)

4. Marco Rossi (04/30/2020)

5. Lucas Raymond (04/28/2020)

6. Jamie Drysdale (05/01/2020)

7. Alexander Holtz (04/29/2020)

8. Cole Perfetti (05/06/2020)

9. Yaroslav Askarov (05/05/2020)

10. Anton Lundell (05/11/2020)

11. Seth Jarvis (05/13/2020)

12. Jake Sanderson (05/04/2020)

13. Dawson Mercer (05/16/2020)

14. Noah Gunler (05/19/2020)

15. Rodion Amirov (05/12/2020)

16. Jack Quinn (05/09/2020)

17. Dylan Holloway (05/14/2020)

18. Connor Zary (05/15/2020)

19. Maverik Bourque (05/20/2020)

20. Hendrix Lapierre (Today)

21. Lukas Reichel (05/18/2020)

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