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The Young Man And The "C"

by Mike Vogel / Washington Capitals
When the Capitals took the ice for warm-ups prior to Tuesday’s game with the Habs, Washington left wing Alex Ovechkin was sporting the captain’s “C” on his sweater. Ovechkin follows Chris Clark as the 14th captain in franchise history.

From the day the Caps drafted him in June, 2004 it was abundantly evident that Ovechkin would lead this team one day and that day has arrived. His unbridled passion for the game and his infectious enthusiasm make him a natural choice to sport the “C.”

The 24-year-old Ovechkin is the first European-born captain in franchise history and the second-youngest Caps captain behind Ryan Walter, who was the youngest captain in NHL history when he was adorned with the “C” in the District in 1979-80. Among all current captains in the NHL, Ovechkin is third-youngest behind only Chicago’s Jonathan Toews (21) and Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby (22).

Ovechkin follows in the footsteps of Alex Zhamnov, Alexander Mogilny, Pavel Bure, Alexei Yashin and Ilya Kovalchuk as the sixth Russian captain in the NHL.

“Our team has adopted his personality,” begins Caps general manager George McPhee, “and the energy, passion and drive to win that are his hallmarks have become our team’s as well. He sets the tone, on the ice as well as off. He’s respectful to everyone and a great ambassador for our team and our sport. We look forward to him leading the Washington Capitals for a long time.”

Ovechkin’s appointment as captain comes eight days after the Caps traded previous captain Chris Clark to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Clark had been the third-longest tenured captain in club history. Prior to having his sweater adorned with the captain’s “C,” Ovechkin had been in the middle of his fourth season with the alternate captain’s “A.”

“He’s the best player in the world and he’s the face of the franchise,” says ex-Caps captain Jeff Halpern, now with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Halpern, a former teammate of Ovechkin’s in the District, went on to say, “Plus, he’s a great teammate. The Caps organization should feel proud to name him captain.”

Washington went 0-3 in the three games between Clark’s departure and Ovechkin’s appointment.

“Alex is a great player and a great choice for captain,” says ex-Caps captain Dale Hunter, “He is the best player in the NHL and I love his combination of skill and physical play. He finishes his checks and hits hard.”

Since entering the NHL as a rookie in 2005-06, Ovechkin has 245 goals. That’s 31 more than any other player over the same span. His 470 points during that period are second only to San Jose’s Joe Thornton (479).

Since he entered the NHL, Ovechkin also leads the NHL in power play goals (85), game-winning goals (34), even-strength goals (156) and shots on goal (1968). He has 563 more shots on goal than any other player in the league since he debuted against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Verizon Center on Oct. 5, 2005.

“I think he’s got all the qualities you look for in a captain,” says ex-Caps captain Yvon Labre, “and to see that in someone so young is incredible. He’s been a leader since he’s been here, and he leads by example. If he gets upset, you can see him start to take over a game. There’s no doubt he’s deserving.”
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