During exit interviews conducted by head coach Craig Didmon following the Victoria Grizzlies’ deep B.C. Hockey League playoff run, the team’s group of aging-out veterans identified Lucas Clark as one of the team’s leaders going forward.
Didmon took that information under consideration while making the ultimate decision to name Clark as the team’s next captain, and cited his personality and performance on the ice as other factors.
“He’s a great kid. He’s very likeable and he’s really good to his teammates. All of those parts made it a great decision and we’re excited about it,” he said.
An experienced rookie last year after having played three seasons of Junior ‘C’ hockey with the Port Perry MoJacks in the Ontario town he grew up in, Clark came to the Grizzlies a year ago knowing that the BCHL would be a step up.
The 6’0”, 181-pound centre delivered, posting 17 goals and 26 assists for 43 points in the regular season while playing a solid 200-foot game. He saw his role with the club grow as the season wore on and was a key player in the Grizzlies’ run to the semi-finals.
“It was kind of an intimidating jump,” he said of the move to the BCHL. “I had a slow start to my season but I think as I got more comfortable and got to know each team that we were playing against, things started started to click.”
The 20 year-old heard the good news directly from his coach.
“It was a very exciting thing to hear. Everyone’s always honoured to be named a captain and obviously for an organization like the Victoria Grizzlies, it’s definitely a huge compliment to me,” he said.
Clark takes over the captaincy from fellow Ontarian Cody Van Lierop and he says he’s already been in touch with the former Grizzlies defenceman about the intricacies of his new role.
“We became friends the summer that I was going into the team…Cody was a great captain. He was definitely an on-ice leader and he was the hardest working guy,” Clark said.
“I’ve been able to keep in touch with Cody and I’ve asked for some pointers…he’s been there to help me. I’ll take what I can get from a guy that’s already been in that seat.”
Clark played with fellow rookie Jamie Rome throughout much of the year, a player that Didmon identified as a potential alternate captain as the Grizzlies transition from last year’s group that featured veteran leaders like Cole Pickup, Tyler Welsh, Jake Stevens, Nick Guiney and goaltender Matthew Galajda in addition to Van Lierop.
“Because they were such a good leadership group they groomed the younger players well,” Didmon said. “This group has that 19 games in the playoffs under their belt so they’re coming with some experience. They’ve been there…I think it should be a good transition.”
Like most junior coaches over the summer, Didmon has had little time to relax, racking up the kilometres on his car and on flights to destinations across North America.
While much of the club’s roster is set, he says there will still be room for training camp battles at multiple positions.
The Grizzlies have a camp in Whistler from July 21-23 and the team’s main camp opens on Aug. 21.