Edmonton, AB - The Edmonton Oil Kings' team captains were announced Tuesday and Oilers prospect Travis Ewanyk has been awarded an 'A' as an alternate captain, of which he -- along with 2011-12 leading-scorer Michael St. Croix -- will wear exclusively on the road.
18-year-old Griffin Reinhart has been chosen as Mark Pysyk's successor, becoming the fifth captain in the team's modern day era. The West Vancouver, BC native became the team's highest NHL draft pick this past summer when he was chosen fourth overall by the New York Islanders. In 58 games last season, Reinhart posted career-highs in goals (12), assists (24), points (36) and plus/minus (+23).
TJ Foster and highly touted 17-year-old Curtis Lazar -- who scored eight goals and 19 points in 20 post-season games last spring as a rookie -- will serve as alternates at home. Carolina Hurricanes prospect and son of Oilers President of Hockey Operations Kevin Lowe, Keegan, will sport an A at home and on the road.
"It sounds really good; I'm really happy," Reinhart smiled. "It's my third year in the league. I have to take a bigger leadership role and be more vocal. Also with the young guys coming into the league, I've got to lead by example and communicate with them. I'm ready to take a big step up.
"It's huge having all the guys with the A's. They've all had A's before except for Curtis, who's a young guy that has great leadership in the room and we all look up to him. He's a great player and he's going to have a great year this year. Being able to work with those guys is going to be huge for me."
"He really leads by example out there," Ewanyk said, adding that Reinhart is a "special player."
"He's not going to be a guy that's going to come in, be all rah rah and yell at guys. We don't need that, especially since we have a lot of strong voices in here.
"It's always an honour when you get a privilege like that to wear a letter with a team like this. I've been fortunate enough in the past few years to wear one and it shows that I'm continuing to grow and build as a leader."
Ewanyk missed a large part of the season last year due to shoulder surgery, but returned for 11 regular season games and the team's memorable playoff run.
St. Croix, 19, scored team- and record-high totals last year, potting 45 goals and 105 points in 72 regular season games. Unlike Ewanyk, he didn't wear a letter in 2011-12 but is looking to increase his role as a more vocal leader, particularly to the club's new wave of youngsters.
"It's a huge honour," he said. "I'm going into my fourth year in the Western Hockey League and I'm trying to take on a bigger leadership role this year. In talking with the coaches, they want me to do it. It's something I look forward to and something I'm going to embrace.
"This team is so special that, whether you have a letter on your sweater or not, it really doesn't matter. We'll take what anyone says at any given time and listen."
Often ribbed for being the quiet type similar to Pysyk, Reinhart believes his greatest asset is his ability to mentor on the fly. Particularly on the backend where veteran guidance is appreciated under pressure, it's most critical to what makes a good leader in his eyes.
"I think [Pysyk and I are] pretty similar," Reinhart laughed, "but I'm going to try and lead by example -- I think that's the most important thing. But if something needs to be said, I won't be afraid to speak up."
"We're such a tight-knit team," Ewanyk added. "There are 20, 25 leaders in there. All the guys, the young guys, everyone steps up. It really shows on the ice what kind of team we are."
It's that leadership group that will help guide the team's quest to repeat as WHL Champions.
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com | Follow me on Twitter @ryandittrick