McDonald ready to lead
By Jamie Palatini || AHL On The Beat Archive
Just under two months into the 2012-13 campaign, the Sound Tigers have named their team captain.
Perhaps it’s appropriate that his nickname amongst the players is “C-Mac.”
Colin McDonald was named the eighth team captain in Sound Tigers history on Friday afternoon. The first-year Sound Tiger will be joined by assistant captains Casey Cizikas, Jon Landry and Matt Watkins. Cizikas will wear the assistant “A” for all games; Landry will serve as the second assistant for all Sound Tigers home games, while Watkins will don the “A” on the road.
“[McDonald] has a high level of professionalism that he brings to the rink every day, from his work ethic on and off the ice to his understanding of the game,” head coach Scott Pellerin said. “Colin is a veteran, but he’s a young veteran […] he has great upside and his game continues to evolve.
“He’s becoming a solid pro, the type of player who shows leadership on and off the ice, and that’s what the leader of the Sound Tigers has to be.”
Playing in his first home game as Sound Tigers captain on Dec. 9, the Connecticut native did not disappoint. The Sound Tigers were looking to snap an eight-game winless streak, and McDonald led the way with two goals and two assists, earning first-star honors in a 7-2 rout of the Syracuse Crunch.
The role of captain had been fairly clear-cut in past seasons, with familiar names like Mark Wotton and Jeremy Colliton penned into the spot before the start of the year. This season’s situation was somewhat unique—only one player on the Opening Night roster had played more than 100 games as a member of the Sound Tigers prior to the beginning of the season.
Pellerin rotated the assistant captain title amongst players in the first two months of the season while getting a feel for the personalities in his locker room, and the first-year head coach felt comfortable allowing his leaders to come to the forefront naturally.
“You want to evaluate the players and see how the team evolves,” Pellerin said. “There can be young guys who become leaders earlier than you expect. The coaching staff talked at length, and we were all on the same page. The players had a vote as well, and they were on the same page as us. It just happened to come at this time of the year.”
While this is the first time McDonald will serve as a captain professionally, he is no stranger to wearing the “C”—he served as a captain in both junior hockey and at Providence College.
“It’s always a great honor to be named captain,” McDonald said, shortly after Pellerin addressed the team. “It’s nice to know that the team voted and that they respect me in that way, that’s what means the most to me.
“It’s something I won’t take for granted, and I’m excited for the opportunity.”
The Sound Tigers three assistant captains all bring a different background and attitude to the newly-formed leadership group.
Cizikas enters his second professional season after posting an impressive 45 points (15 goals, 30 assists) in 52 games with the Sound Tigers last season. The Toronto, ON native also recorded four assists in 15 games with the Islanders.
“A guy like ‘Z,’ I have a lot of respect for the way he plays the game,” McDonald said. “He’s pretty young, but he’s very good in the locker room. He’s a vocal guy, and it takes some of the pressure off of guys that aren’t.”
Similar to McDonald, Watkins is in the midst of his first season with the New York Islanders organization. Although he’s relatively new to the team, the 26-year-old forward has had more AHL experience than most players on the roster.
“Watkins is a guy who is more of a quiet leader, but he is vocal at the right times,” Pellerin explained.
“Watty is a great pro,” McDonald added. “He’s a great person and is a pro both on and off the ice, so I felt that was an easy choice.”
Landry represents the only defenseman to earn a letter on the front of his sweater. Although he has less than one full season of AHL experience, the seventh-year pro leads all Sound Tigers defensemen with five goals this season, and has worked his way through the lower levels of minor league hockey to earn his first NHL contract.
“Lands is a guy that I have a ton of respect for,” McDonald said. “Just because of the route he’s taken to get to this point, with his perseverance […] there are a lot of guys that I’ve played with, and after a couple years in the ECHL hang ‘em up.”
“He’s worked so hard to get to where he is now,” Pellerin said. “He’s looked upon as a strong leader in his own way, and he’s incredibly smart on and off the ice. I’m thrilled because we have four examples of character and leadership that we need in the organization.”
Although there may have been some question as to who would serve as captain or when the announcement would come, McDonald is ready to embrace the role.
“I thought Pelly [Scott Pellerin] handled the situation in a great way,” McDonald said. “We’ve had some great talks recently. There are a lot of guys on this team that are leaders and could have been in my position, and I understand that.
“I’m ready for the responsibility because I’ve got great help and we’ve got a great mix of guys.”
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