Veteran Forward Wilson Named Captain
WILKES-BARRE — For two seasons, forward Garrett Wilson watched the way in which Tom Kostopoulos would give each of his teammates “the time of day,” making sure he talked to each one and offered to help them in any way he could.
The 27-year-old will now have the honor of following in the beloved captain’s skate strides.
Head coach Clark Donatelli officially named Wilson the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins’ captain for the upcoming season on Thursday, answering the last major personnel question ahead of the team’s home opener against Springfield on Saturday.
“Filling the void after TK is gone, it’s definitely a big job to fill, and we’re going to miss him a lot,” Wilson said after practice at the Toyota SportsPlex. “I’m just going to do whatever I can to help this team. Any of the teammates need anything, I’ll be there to help them and support them.”
Defenseman Chris Summers will serve as one of the two alternate captains. The other spot would normally belong to defenseman Kevin Czuczman, Donatelli said, but he is still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. So, that position will rotate at least to begin the season and potentially throughout.
This is the first time Wilson will serve as captain in his pro career, but he is no stranger to leading a team. He’s worn the “A” for three different AHL clubs, including the Penguins.
The Elmvale, Ontario native set a career high with 42 points last season (17G-25A) and also led the team with 139 penalty minutes. But as much as Wilson’s play on the ice has helped the Penguins reach the postseason the last two years, Donatelli more often raves about his presence in the dressing room and ability to communicate with teammates.
“We couldn’t have picked a better guy,” Donatelli said. “He’s a leader by nature, on and off the ice, and he works tremendously hard. He’s a great pro, comes to the rink and gives his all every single day. And, he’s great with the young guys. A great example.”
Wilson said he won’t change the way he carries himself around the team, but he knows how important his role is — especially for inexperienced players. When he began his AHL career with San Antonio starting in the 2011-12 season, he learned about being a pro from his captains then, Nolan Yonkman and Greg Zanon.
At the same time, Kostopoulos’ presence has been one of the defining elements of Penguins teams the last handful of years and will be tough for one person to fully replace. So, Wilson and Donatelli trust some of the other veterans on the team — defensemen Will O’Neill and Zach Trotman being examples — to also help lead by example throughout the season.
Wilson is again eager to help contribute offensively, on the power play in particular. He made a habit last season of screening opposing goaltenders, helping a number of point shots sneak through for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton goals. If he could help jump-start the Penguins on the man-advantage, it would go a long way toward helping the team make up for the scoring potency it lost over the summer.
No matter how he can contribute, though, his focus is on helping the Penguins complete their greater goal of competing for a championship.
“We’ve had good success here and built a winning culture,” Wilson said. “Coming into that, it really makes my job easier as captain to keep that culture going and making sure everyone is on board on, hopefully, steering the ship to the playoffs.”
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