WILKES-BARRE — When head coach Clark Donatelli anointed Garrett Wilson as the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins captain on Thursday, it was a significant in several ways.
Wilson, 27, will wear the “C” for the first time in his eight-year professional career. He will also be the first captain to take over from the franchise’s long-time leader — Tom Kostopoulos — who retired at the conclusion of last season.
And Wilson will also be known as the captain for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s 20th season.
“It’a a huge honor to have that on my jersey,” Wilson said of donning the “C” for the upcoming season. “Filling the void after TK is gone is definitely a big job.”
Kostopoulos served as the team captain for the last five seasons, and Wilson was his teammate for the last two. As he becomes the 18th captain in franchise history, Wilson freely admits he learned from the best in Kostopoulos.
But Wilson also had plenty of experience in what it takes to be a leader.
He spent the past four seasons as an alternate captain in the AHL, donning the “A” for the San Antonio Rampage, Portland Pirates and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Wilson mentioned those early years with San Antonio, playing with veterans such as Nolan Yonkman and Greg Zanon, as his first experience with what it takes to lead.
“They knew what the pro life was all about. I picked up a few things from them,” he said.
But when it comes to learning the leadership role, Kostopoulos was the master. Wilson said he watched Kostopoulos lead both at the rink and away from it, making sure to give plenty of time to every teammate.
“TK taught me how to be a professional and take care of everyone,” he said. “Making sure the guys are all right at home and at the rink.”
Wilson will have plenty of help as veteran Charlie Summers will serve as one of the alternate captains, while the second “A” will be rotated throughout the season.
Donatelli said the decision to name Wilson as captain was an easy one.
“Being around Wilson, he’s a great character guy on and off the ice. A leader by nature,” Donatelli said. “We couldn’t of picked a better guy.”
While Wilson is praised for the way he carries himself away from the rink, his play on the ice backs up his leadership qualities. He set career highs last year in assists (25) and points (42) while skating for the Penguins. Over the course of his previous seven seasons, the Wilson has racked up 76 goals and 91 assists for 167 total points in 344 AHL games. He has also appeared in 34 NHL games, all of which coming as a member of the Florida Panthers, the team that drafted him in the fourth round (107th overall) of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.