Aeros’ new captain ready to lead

by Robert Desimone and Palmer Hestley || AHL On The Beat Archive

Three months into the season, the Houston Aeros have finally chosen their captain in forward Jon DiSalvatore, and he didn’t hesitate in leading by example when he notched the game-winning goal in a 4-1 win against the Rockford IceHogs on Dec. 13, ending a three-game winless streak.

“Jon’s [goal] was a shot from the point and part of the reason he played up top was because we weren’t shooting enough up top, and we know he does,” said Aeros head coach Kevin Constantine. “He has played that position before, and we knew he would shoot. Point shots with traffic are the number one thing you have to do a lot of and it’s good to see him do that.”

After a slow start to the season in which he had just four points in the first 13 games, DiSalvatore has heated up in November and December, scoring 18 points in the past 21 games. His goal against Rockford sparked a stretch of seven points in his last seven games, including game-winning goals against Rockford (Dec. 13), Texas (Dec. 15) and Grand Rapids (Dec. 20).

“I want to show by example,” Disalvatore said, “that I’m not just talk and that guys can respect that I’m out there doing it as well.”

The 6-foot-1, 200 pound native of Bangor, Maine, is currently in his seventh AHL season and first with the Aeros. He has five games of NHL experience with the St. Louis Blues during the 2005-06 season and brings 476 AHL games of experience to the team, experience which has helped mold him into captain material.

“You just try to be a good character guy and possess leadership skills wherever you are anyways,” DiSalvatore said. “I don’t want to say it’s too much a surprise, because I want to be a good guy for the team. It just means that what I’ve learned from my coaches and my teammates in the past has turned out to be beneficial qualities here now in Houston.”

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A fourth-round pick of San Jose in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, DiSalvatore is the first player to be named team captain for Houston since Erik Reitz for the 2007-08 season. He made stops in Cleveland, Peoria, San Antonio and Lowell during his AHL career and understands the role of being team captain.

“You have to represent the organization and the philosophy of the team at all times,” DiSalvatore said. “There are great captains that have been able to separate their problems and be a good outlet and good source of information for every guy. That’s one of the biggest things, making sure that you’re on the same page as the coaches and help translate or relay the structure back to the players from whatever the coach is preaching.”

And although he wears the “C”, DiSalvatore knows he is not the only leader on the team and will rely on the other veterans to provide leadership to the younger players. Included in that group are assistant captains Clayton Stoner (currently with Minnesota Wild), Brandon Rogers and Ryan Lannon.

“I think we have a bunch of great leaders on the team so to be chosen [as captain] is a great honor. But also without a doubt I will be relying on those guys that have great leadership to help me out, to help lead this team in the right direction along with the coaches.”