Colton Sissons has been a captain before. The Nashville Predators prospect donned the “C” with the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League in 2012-13. During the rookie tournament, however, he got a chance to wear it on an NHL sweater.
“It’s pretty cool to see your name on the back of a Predators jersey and to wear the ‘C’ is even cooler,” Sissons said. “Leadership is a big part of my game so I’m happy they see that in me.”
Leadership was one of the reasons the Predators drafted him in the second round of the 2012 NHL Draft. But it wasn’t always a part of his DNA.
“I wasn’t much of a leader growing up,” Sissons admitted. “I wasn’t an all-star by any means and I was a pretty quiet kid so [Kelowna] was the first time I wore a letter.”
The North Vancouver, British Columbia native played his first season of professional hockey last year and did well. He led the Milwaukee Admirals in goals (25), finished fourth in scoring (44 points) and even notched his first NHL goal on March 27. Those 17 NHL games may not seem like much but they’ve done wonders for his confidence.
“Just to know that I can play at that level,” he said. “I was able to play pretty well and stick up there for a good amount of time in my first pro season. It was awesome so I have a lot of confidence.”
One would assume his brief body of work was strong enough to guarantee him at least a look in training camp. Instead, General Manager David Poile went out and signed three free agent forwards this summer, overcrowding the NHL depth chart. Mike Ribeiro, Derek Roy and Olli Jokinen were all brought in to help the offensively-challenged Predators boost their numbers. Add them to a draft day deal that brought sniper James Neal over from the Pittsburgh Penguins and new head coach Peter Laviolette has some weapons to play with.
Of course, it wasn’t good news for everyone.
“I didn’t ignore the fact that they brought in a couple extra guys so we’ll see what happens,” Sissons said. “It’s never going to be easy to make an NHL roster, especially on opening night. It’s a business and they want to win.”
And winning is hard to do with young players. Even teams loaded with young dynamic talent like the Edmonton Oilers and New York Islanders haven’t won enough to get into the post season the past few years. Nashville is no different and they addressed that situation in the summer.
Besides, 2014-15 will be just his second pro season. Everything went so fast for Sissons last year that there wasn’t much time to realize what was happening.
“It was a pretty big whirlwind for me,” he said. “It didn’t really sink in until I got home in the summer and took a look back at everything. You’re so focused and so into the middle of the season you don’t have time to sit back and reflect like that.”
But this year he knows what to expect. He’s experienced the speed of the NHL game and is accustomed to the pace of the AHL game. The odds are against him that he starts with the big club but, regardless, he’ll be ready if and when the call comes.
“They brought in some older guys so that’s just more of a challenge for me,” Sissons said. “I’m still coming into the camp trying to make the team. But if I have to spend some more time in the AHL, so be it. It’s a part of the journey.”
And that attitude is exactly why he wore the “C.”
PHOTO CREDIT: Sarah Fuqua