PROVIDENCE - If you ask Paul Carey about some of the captains that have stood out to him in his playing career, he'll talk about Brian Lerg, former captain of the Lake Erie Monsters, a team Carey spent four seasons with from 2011-15. He'll mention Tommy Cross, a captain from his time at Boston College, and Ryan McDonagh from the New York Rangers, who Carey played with in 2017-18.
From college to the AHL to the NHL, Carey has had captains that have made an impact on him and the teams he's played with. For him, that impact stems from their commitment, their work ethic and their ability to connect with younger players.
Video: Carey talks captaincy, leading group in Providence
"Just really good guys, good leaders," Carey said on Tuesday. "They work hard and they show up every day, and they help out the young guys and really help kids move along."
As of last week, those leadership traits are all focus points for Carey as well. The 31-year old Weymouth native was named captain of the Providence Bruins before the start of the season and is now serving as the 25th captain in Providence history.
"It's an honor," Carey said. "There's been a lot of good captains that have come here before me, so it's going to be a tough sweater to fill, but I'm excited for the job. We have a good group and it's pretty important to me."
Even with positive role models such as Lerg, Cross and McDonagh, Carey acknowledges the position is tougher than it may seem. But he's embracing the tough parts of the job as an opportunity for growth for himself and the team as a whole.
"You've got to really dial in on everything, you can't take any days off where you're just moping around the rink or just don't have the energy," Carey said. "You've got to show up, you've got to be ready to go and doing that, I see and I get to help teach these young guys. And I'm learning, too, so everyday I'm trying to get a little bit better. I'm helping them and helping myself."
Carey is bringing six seasons and 348 games of American Hockey League experience to the table, with 107 career goals and 136 career assists across that span. Seventeen of those games were played with the Providence Bruins during the 2014-15 season, right up until Carey was picked up by the Washington Capitals for the next two years.
He made his return to the organization last season, when he came back to Providence halfway through the year and contributed 33 points in 30 games. Carey also played two games with the big club in mid-March.
His presence has added experience, reliability and consistency to the P-Bruins' roster, which helped make the decision to name Carey a captain that much easier for Providence coach Jay Leach.
"Ever since he's been here, he's been that guy for us," Leach said. "He comes in, he scores 22 goals in 29 games. He's great on the power play and great with the kids, you name it. It was a no-brainer for us to start and it continues to be to this day."
Video: Leach goes 1-on-1 to talk early P-Bruins season
Tuesday after practice, Carey went over some of his main goals for being a captain: connecting with both the newcomers and veterans on the team, all while trying to help the younger guys establish routines and adjust to life in the AHL. Ultimately, he wants everyone on the team to be a good pro player, regardless of whether they're new to pro hockey or not.
Two games into the 2019-20 season, it looks as if Carey is already making strides on those goals. Providence is off to a 2-0 start on its season after picking up road wins against Lehigh Valley and Hershey over the opening weekend, with Carey scoring a goal in the first game of the campaign.
"It's been good," Carey said. "It's obviously a good test, going down and playing two good teams on the road and coming back with a couple wins. There's still plenty of room for improvement, which is good because I think that we have a very high ceiling this year, from goaltending out. Our team looks good."
The P-Bruins still have a way to go in the season, with 74 games ahead of them. But Carey is determined to embrace the responsibility of being a captain and helping his team go as far as it can.
"I'm still trying to be the best player I can be and try to help these young guys," Carey said. "It actually helps me as well. I mean, it's a challenge and there's definitely a lot more responsibility that comes with wearing the letter, but I think I'm ready for it and I think that added responsibility will be good for me and good for the other guys."