Skip to Main Content

Nine players who could be named captain

Tavares, Eichel among potential candidates to fill opening on their teams

by David Satriano @davidsatriano / Staff Writer

With NHL training camps around the corner, there are eight teams without a captain. looks at who could be in line to receive that honor from each team.

Arizona Coyotes

Oliver Ekman-Larsson

The 27-year-old defenseman signed an eight-year contract extension through the 2026-27 season and appears to be the favorite to be the Coyotes' first captain since Shane Doan retired following the 2016-17 season. Ekman-Larsson, who's spent all eight of his NHL seasons with the Coyotes, is ninth in franchise history in games (576), eighth in power-play goals (46) and eighth in game-winning goals (28). He was an alternate captain last season and is a leader on and off the ice in Arizona.

Other choices: Niklas Hjalmarsson, Derek Stepan


Buffalo Sabres

Jack Eichel

Although Eichel missed 15 games with an ankle injury, he led the Sabres in points (64) and tied Sam Reinhart for the team lead in goals (25) last season. The No. 2 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, behind Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid, the 21-year-old center has 177 points (73 goals, 104 assists) in 209 games with the Sabres and was an alternate captain last season. Buffalo did not have a captain in 2017-18 after Brian Gionta, its captain from 2014-17, was not re-signed as a free agent.

Other choices: Kyle Okposo, Jason Pominville

Video: Analyzing the Sabres' acquisitions, season outlook


Carolina Hurricanes

Jordan Staal

Staal was co-captain with defenseman Justin Faulk last season, but new coach Rod Brind'Amour said the Hurricanes would have one captain this season, according to the Raleigh News & Observer. The 29-year-old center, who won the Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009, has spent the past six seasons in Carolina and is under contract through 2022-23. He's been a leader on a team with a young roster and was a finalist for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, awarded to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey, last season after missing three games following his daughter being delivered stillborn because of a terminal birth defect.

Other choices: Faulk, Justin Williams


New York Islanders

Josh Bailey

The longest-tenured Islanders player, Bailey has played 10 seasons with New York after being selected with the No. 9 pick in the 2008 NHL Draft. Bailey, who is an alternate, could replace John Tavares, who was Islanders captain for the past six seasons before signing a seven-year, $77 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs on July 1. The 28-year-old forward is respected by his teammates and had NHL career highs in goals (18) and points (71) last season, and signed a six-year contract through the 2023-24 season on Feb. 23. Forward Anders Lee, who led the team with 40 goals last season, is another option, although he could become an unrestricted free agent July 1, 2019.

Other choices: Johnny Boychuk, Lee


New York Rangers

Marc Staal

The Rangers have had 27 captains in their 91 seasons, but five since 2000 (Mark Messier, Jaromir Jagr, Chris Drury, Ryan Callahan, Ryan McDonagh). After McDonagh was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Feb. 26, New York played the rest of the season without a captain and could name one this season. Staal, a 31-year-old defenseman, has been a staple on the back end for the Rangers for the past 11 seasons and has been an alternate captain since 2010. He has three seasons remaining on a six-year contract.

Other choices: Mats Zuccarello, Kevin Shattenkirk

Video: 31 in 31: New York Rangers 2018-19 season preview


Toronto Maple Leafs

Auston Matthews, John Tavares

The Maple Leafs have not had a captain since defenseman Dion Phaneuf, who served as captain for parts of six seasons, was traded to the Ottawa Senators on Feb. 9, 2016. It likely will be one of their top two centers. Matthews, the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, won the Calder Trophy as the top rookie in 2016-17 and has scored at least 34 goals in his two NHL seasons, including 40 in his rookie season. The 20-year-old is a dynamic playmaker and has helped Toronto qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs in each of the past two seasons. Tavares, the No. 1 pick in the 2009 NHL Draft and longtime Islanders captain, commands respect on and off the ice.

Other choices: Morgan Rielly, Jake Gardiner


Vancouver Canucks

Bo Horvat

Vancouver could begin the season without a captain after Henrik Sedin, who was captain for the past eight seasons, and twin brother Daniel Sedin (alternate) retired following the 2017-18 season. The Canucks have several veterans (Alexander Edler, Christopher Tanev) who could be in contention, although they could give it to a younger player like Horvat. The 23-year-old center, who was the No. 9 pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, scored an NHL career-high 22 goals last season and could become the new face of the franchise.

Other choices: Brock Boeser, Tanev


Vegas Golden Knights

Deryk Engelland

After rotating alternate captains in their inaugural NHL season, the Golden Knights could have a permanent one this season. If so, the top choice could be Engelland. The 36-year-old defenseman, who has lived in Las Vegas during the offseason for years, had NHL career highs in assists (18) and points (23) last season and helped the Golden Knights reach the Stanley Cup Final, where they lost to the Washington Capitals in five games. Engelland also won the Mark Messier Leadership award last season, given to the NHL player who exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and who plays a leading role in his community growing the game of hockey.

Other choices: Reilly Smith, Jonathan Marchessault

Video: Can Vegas repeat its inaugural season success?

View More