Jonathan Blum, Lance Bouma, Craig Cunningham, Brendan Gallagher, Tyler Benson
Today the Vancouver Giants announced that Alex Kannok Leipert would join the likes of the aforementioned players as the 17th captain in franchise history.
The Thailand-born and Regina raised defenceman is in his third full season with the Giants, skating in 137 games while accumulating 44 points (11G, 33A) and was selected by the Washington Capitals in the sixth round (161st overall) in 2018, becoming the first-ever Thai-born player to be selected in the NHL Draft.
“I don’t think it’s really set in yet honestly.” said the newest captain. “It’s pretty unreal to just think of the great captains before me like Benson, Dmytriw and Geertsen, guys like that. It’s unbelievable….after the year we had last year and the way we came together I’m just excited to get going.”
Originally a fourth-round bantam draft pick of the Giants in 2015, Kannok Leipert has played beyond his years since entering the WHL in 2017-18 as a 17-year-old. He has always played a stay-at-home, rough sandpaper game and earned the trust from Head Coach Michael Dyck enough to pair him with star defenceman Bowen Byram throughout last season. As early as last year Dyck has had no problem saying the gritty defender had the potential to be a future captain, crediting the respect he has around the locker room.
“Very well deserved.” Dyck continued by saying, “He was a leader in the room last year and has a lot of respect in the room from the older guys and the younger guys. I think he was everyone’s choice for captain. He’s certainly willing to take on the responsibility. He’s one guy that embodies our identity, he’s hard to play against, he’s a great teammate, he’s physical, he’s fast…he’ll do a great job.”
Dyck paired him with star defenceman Bowen Byram for the majority of last season, a task Kannok Leipert excelled with. In turn, the two built a relationship that goes beyond just being teammates as the two are great friends off the ice and Byram was ecstatic for his buddy to be honoured.
“He’s worked really hard.” Byram said about his defense partner being named captain, “I think in his rookie year it was pretty easy to tell he was going to be a future captain. He’s a really good friend of mine and I’m super happy for him to be acknowledged like that because he really deserves it.”
The two will be seeing more of each other as the Colorado Avalanche sent the fourth overall pick back to the Giants just in time for their home opener on Friday against the Portland Winterhawks.
The Giants couldn’t seem to figure out the WHL’s most Southern team last season, going winless in four games.
“They kind of had our number last year. We weren’t able to beat them so we have it out for them to get them back,” said Kannok Leipert. “They (Portland) move the puck really well, they work extremely hard and are super skilled. We have to be able to outwork them in both ends and hopefully get our bounces.”
Portland features former Giants Head Coach and the WHL’s most winningest coach ever behind the bench in Don Hay, who is an assistant coach with the team. Hay, of course, coached the Giants to two Memorial Cup appearances, winning in 2007.
The game will also be Vancouver’s home opener where Giants fans will see the 2018-19 team’s accomplishments be recognized as both the BC Division and Western Conference championship banners will go to the rafters which will be a surely motivational ceremony for this year’s club to exceed the previous season’s accolades.
After a rocking Langley Events Centre during the lengthy playoff run, it would not be surprising to see a similar atmosphere to kick off what should be another successful season.
“I’ve been itching for it for the last four months.” The Giants captain said about looking forward to the LEC crowd. “Ever since we lost out I’ve been missing that crowd so I’m excited to see how it turns out and hopefully it goes well.”