New trio of men’s hockey captains a good fit early on

Grant Potulny, Nick Anthony and Paul Martin were selected by fellow players to wear the captain’s patches

Adam Fink

One was last year’s Frozen Four Most Valuable Player. Another emerged as a top defenseman. And the third is a senior returning from nagging injuries.

Together, Grant Potulny, Paul Martin and Nick Anthony round out Minnesota’s men’s hockey team’s captains for the upcoming season.

There has only been two weeks of practice for the top-ranked Gophers, but already the expectations following the trio are similar to that of last year’s captains.

Off the ice, the change in leadership hasn’t been apparent. On the ice, the lack of seniors Johnny Pohl and Jordan Leopold is noticed.

“Last year it was the two captains making the decisions,” Potulny said. “This year the entire junior and senior class needs to step up.”

Pohl and Leopold were co-captains with different styles and established themselves as the clear-cut leaders by last season’s stretch run. On the ice, Pohl was the vocal center; Leopold was the quiet defensemen with a loud stick.

“We are in a different situation than last year,” said Martin. “They were the veteran leaders who knew what to expect while we are still learning the roles.”

This year’s captain will have an edge on the learning curve. After Potulny spent last season in the wings as an alternate captain, the junior was elevated to the top spot this season based upon voting from his teammates.

“The team picked three good people to lead this team,” coach Don Lucia said last week. “They work hard and have a good influence in the locker room and on the ice.”

The style of Potulny and this year’s alternate captains – Martin and Anthony – have a comparable mixture of leadership.

Potulny is the vocal leader who won’t hesitate to speak his mind. Martin and Anthony are more reserved and are content to lead by example.

All three have the statistics to back up their lofty team standings. Potulny recorded 23 points last season. Martin emerged behind Leopold with 22 points. Battling through an injury-plagued season, Anthony tallied 10 points.

“I am not the most skilled,” said Anthony. “But as a team guy, I try to go out and work hard. Hopefully it rubs off.”

The characteristics of the three players can be traced back to their first and second seasons with the team.

It was those days as freshmen and sophomores in which teammates began to notice their leadership. At the same time, the three absorbed everything they could.

It paid off and it wasn’t a big surprise to Gopher fans when the captain announcement came out Sept. 20.

“Grant’s a guy everyone likes,” sophomore Keith Ballard said. “Last year all three really established themselves in the locker room.”

When the Gophers take the ice at the Xcel Energy Center on Saturday against Ohio State, there will not be a No. 3 or No. 9 jersey with the captain’s brand. Instead, No. 18 will shed the “A” and skate with the “C.”

“We have guys who can contribute while wearing a (captain’s) patch,” Martin said. “Our job is to make sure everyone is playing to their ability to get the job done.”

Adam Fink covers men’s hockey and welcomes comments at [email protected]