When chosen to be a captain in the Eastside Elite summer league All-Star Challenge, Gustav Nyquist made sure to avoid a potentially awkward situation.
With the first pick in the draft for teams to take part in the charity game held Tuesday night, the new Blue Jackets forward selected his future teammate, CBJ defenseman Zach Werenski.
There was no other choice given the fact they'll soon be sharing the same locker room at the NHL level, right?
"Yeah, for sure," Nyquist said with a laugh. "He would have been no matter what, I think."
But he couldn't quite avoid one sartorial choice that turned heads in the contest held Tuesday night in suburban Detroit.
Nyquist took the ice wearing a black San Jose Sharks helmet and black Sharks pants, still repping his former team while skating with Werenski.
"It was pointed out to me by several people," Nyquist added with another laugh. "I have to get on that."
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Either way, the whole event was filled with smiles, laughter, and plenty of chemistry between the new Blue Jackets teammates.
That was never more clear than in overtime of the opening game of the event. Werenski skated into the offensive zone along the left side, spun away from a defender and found Nyquist trailing the play. The forward cut around a defender into the slot and quickly unleashed a wrist shot over the goalie's glove to give their team the victory.
It was emblematic of the kind of skill on display in the 3-on-3 tournament held at the Mt. Clemens Ice Arena north of Detroit. The high-energy event staged in front of a standing room only crowd raised money for Cassie Hines Shoes Cancer Foundation, a Detroit-area charity that helps young adults with cancer live a full life after their diagnosis.
The Eastside Elite league itself is run by Steve Oleksy, a 2016 Stanley Cup champion with Pittsburgh who now plays in the Toronto organization. Much like the famous Da Beauty League in Minnesota, the league allows the top pro and amateur players in the Detroit area to stay sharp in the summer, with the all-star contest serving as a spotlight event showcasing high-level hockey in a community event setting.
Other notable names to take part include NHLers like Cam Fowler, Danny DeKeyser, and former Blue Jackets Dalton Prout, Kerby Rychel and Tyler Motte. Werenski has taken part in the league over the last three offseasons, and he's one of the staples of the league along with longtime friend and fellow former University of Michigan star Dylan Larkin.
"There's a lot of good NHL players, a lot of good AHL players, a lot of good junior players, college guys," Werenski said. "It's good for the fans to come out here and see some summer hockey.
"I think it's a good way to get out here and stay in game shape and just have some fun. In the middle of summer, training can sometimes get kind of boring, just doing the same stuff, going to the gym, working out lifting weights. At night, you can come out here and have some fun and try to score some goals."
It also features the chance for Werenski and Nyquist to build some chemistry before they arrive at Blue Jackets training camp. Though Nyquist has played only sporadically in the league -- it's been a busy summer, as he gets ready to move to Columbus while also spending time with his 3-month-old daughter, Charlotte -- he and Werenski do have a history together, having worked out at the same gym at over the past few summers.
Since Nyquist signed a four-year contract with the Blue Jackets on July 1, the two have started to spend more time picking each other's brains.
"We've gotten to know each other the last couple of years, but now that you know you're going to be playing with each other, it changes the mentality a little bit," Nyquist said. "He's a great guy and a great player, and it's going to be fun to get to know him better in the locker room and also play with him."
For his part, Werenski is excited to add a player of Nyquist's caliber to the locker room. The former Red Wing, who originally hails from Sweden and, who went to the Sharks last year at the trade deadline, has averaged 21 goals and 50 points per 82 games in his NHL career and was acquired to help the team score goals this upcoming season.
"It's awesome," said Werenski, a native of Grosse Pointe, Mich. "It's funny, I actually watched him growing up a little bit before I came to the NHL because he was on the Wings. He's so quick, he's so deceptive, he can pass. He's going to be a hell of a player for us. I think it's a great addition for our team and I'm really excited to get him there."