ST. LOUIS - What does it take to make it in the NHL?
Talent, hard work, dedication, luck - and, according to Alex Letang, a password.
Kris Letang's 7-year-old son, who wants to be just like his dad, has a plan for what it will take to eventually suit up for Pittsburgh.
"I want to play for the Penguins," Alex said. "I'm going to play defense. If my dad is still playing, I'm taking somebody else's place. If he's not, I'm taking my dad's place. That way my dad is going to say the password and I'll just get in. Because he already did it and had the same password."
I asked Alex what number he wants to have when he makes it to the NHL, and he has a plan figured out for that too.
"I would be 58 if my dad is not playing," Alex said. "If (Sidney) Crosby stops playing I'll be the number of Crosby. 87 or 58."
"Do you want to be 87 more than 58?" Kris said.
"I want to be 58 more, but if my dad is still playing I'll be 87," Alex replied.
"Fair enough. Then tell Sid to retire," Kris joked before laughing, "Don't say that. We need him."
At an event filled with All-Stars, it was Alex who stole the show on Friday at Enterprise Center ahead of the NHL All-Star Skills competition.
He walked the red carpet with Kris and fellow All-Star Tristan Jarry before accompanying his dad to his media availability, where Alex sat on his lap and fielded questions like a pro for 11-plus minutes in what is, without question. the cutest interview in Penguins history.
In addition to talking about playing for the Penguins someday, Alex chatted about how much he was looking forward to watching him play, especially in Saturday's 3-on-3 tournament.
"I'm really excited to see the hockey players and my dad," Alex said. "I'm most excited to see my dad play in the 3-on-3."
He's also so proud that Kris was named captain of the Metro Division team that will be competing in the All-Star Game - so much so that as his dad was answering a question about it, Alex interjected to let everyone know.
"I was happy that my dad was called captain," Alex said. "So I decided to go to the All-Star Game to see what are captains. I want to see everything about them, the captains and what they do."
After concluding his interview with a shoutout - "I just wanted to say hi to my friends. This is the first time they will see me on TV. Hi guys!" - Alex went with Kris to the locker room. There, he talked to Columbus' Seth Jones about video games and his other favorite NHL teams - Florida, San Jose and Nashville - while the players got dressed.
After donning a miniature version of his dad's No. 58 jersey to go along with his Penguins baseball cap, Alex joined Kris on the ice. For a while, he sat between his dad and Jarry. At one point, Kris left to do an interview, which meant Jarry was on babysitting duty.
"He had a blast," Jarry said. "He was telling everyone he was going to take their job eventually (laughs) It was fun."
Kris cut down one of his sticks and found a puck for Alex, who had the best time passing pucks with the Eastern Conference All-Stars as they were hanging out watching the Accuracy Shooting event. Toronto's Mitch Marner, Tampa Bay's Victor Hedman and Philadelphia's Travis Konecny in particular were engaging with the youngster, who was wearing his dad's helmet over his baseball cap.
"That was cool when I passed to all the All-Stars," Alex said. "I liked it because I really like hockey."
It's already shaping up to be a fun - "and interesting," Kris joked - weekend for the Letang boys, who are having a Dads' Trip of their own after the Penguins recently did their Dads' Trip in Boston and Detroit.
Last year, the entire Letang family - along with Kris' wife Catherine and their daughter Victoria - traveled to San Jose for the All-Star weekend, but decided to switch it up this year.
"My mom didn't want to come to the All-Star Game with my baby sister, because my baby sister would scream," Alex explained. "And I didn't really want that. So my mom solved it for me to go on the airplane with my dad."
"Yeah, your sister cries sometimes. It's okay," Kris said with a laugh. "Don't throw her under the bus like this."
"Yeah, we don't want her to cry at the All-Star Game," Alex said with a smile and a shurg. "I really want to listen to this."
Kris later said that he and Catherine were surprised by how chatty Alex was this year.
"Me and my wife had a great laugh after the event," Kris said. "We didn't expect that. Because he was really shy in English. In French, he can talk for days. And last year when we were in San Jose, he didn't talk much. He would just introduce himself and that's it. This year, he's… (laughs) I think I'm going to call an agent."
In addition to hopefully playing for the Penguins one day, Alex would love to make it to an All-Star Game as well. It was truly adorable to see how much Alex looks up to Kris and wants to follow in his footsteps.
"I just want to be playing hockey with my dad even if I'm a kid or an adult," Alex said. "I really love hockey that much."