Alex Graham is experiencing a career first in his final year of minor hockey.
The 17-year-old left-handed-shooting forward from Winsloe, P.E.I. was recently appointed captain of a young and rebuilding Kensington Wild team in the New Brunswick/P.E.I. Major Under-18 Hockey League.
“It means a lot,” Graham said in a recent interview. “I have never been captain before. I was pretty happy, and it feels good.”
Graham, who is in his second season with the Wild, is in his third and final year of under-18 eligibility. He is one of only four Wild returnees, including goaltender Josh Smith and defencemen Crosby Andrews and Kieran Rennie.
“There are only a few of us returning, so it’s good to get to know all the guys,” said Graham. “I am happy to be known as a leader by the coaching staff and players.”
“It means a lot. I have never been captain before. I was pretty happy, and it feels good.”
- Alex Graham
A draft pick of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Charlottetown Islanders and the Summerside Western Capitals of the Maritime Junior Hockey League (MHL), Graham attended the training camps of both teams before rejoining the Wild.
Asked if he received any feedback from the Caps and Islanders, Graham said that included working on the physical element of his game with the Wild.
“That is playing more physical, more straight lines, finish hits and still play the same way I did when I was growing up," said Graham, who has been an offensive producer at all levels.
Wild head coach Kyle Dunn said Graham made an immediate impact upon his return, quickly assuming a leadership role.
“The way he interacts with the younger players, it was a no-brainer to name him captain,” said Dunn. “Normally, we take it to a vote, but with this young of a team, and the way he helped out the young guys right off the bat, it was a pretty easy decision for the coaching staff.
"I coached him last year (with the Wild) and, two years ago, I had him as an assistant captain with the (P.E.I.) Canada Games (team), and he has natural leadership abilities."
Andrews and hard-working forward Harrison James have been named assistant captains. Dunn said the coaching staff is waiting to see who emerges as a leader before appointing a third assistant captain.
Did You Know
- Alex Graham has strong ties to Prince County.
- His father, Brian, is from the Kinkora area and played minor hockey in Kensington.
- His mother, Susan (nee Gallant), is a Summerside native and graduate of Three Oaks Senior High School.
- Alex’s grandfather, Grant Gallant, is a former longtime circulation manager of the Journal Pioneer.
Dunn said his message to Graham is not to change how he plays just because he is now captain. He has done just that, recording at least a point in all four regular-season games, and has two points and a goal in each of the last three games for a team-leading seven points as the Wild is off to a start of 1-2-1 (won-lost-overtime losses).
“I know people probably put a little more pressure on themselves when they are captain,” said Dunn. “Alex naturally has a great work ethic, on and off the ice, and once your leadership group is working hard, on and off the ice, the rest follow.
“For him, that stuff comes naturally, and most of the players will follow him. That’s what we want to see from him.”
A list of captains in Kensington Wild history:
- 2013-14 – Abel Arsenault.
- 2014-15 – Parker Ronahan.
- 2015-16 – Riley Gallant.
- 2016-17 – Tayler Read.
- 2017-18 – Clark Webster.
- 2018-19 – Ethan Beaulieu.
- 2019-20 – Will Proud.
- 2020-21 – Alex Graham.
Although this is Graham’s first time wearing the C, he has previously played with two “influential” captains. He pointed to his “good buddy” Jacob Squires coming up through the Charlottetown minor hockey ranks, and Western Capitals forward Nick Reeves.
Squires is a defenceman with the Cape Breton Eagles of the QMJHL, and Reeves captained the Charlottetown Pride (now Knights) in Graham's first year of major under-18 hockey.
“With Jake, it was more how he approached everything,” said Graham. “He was like a professional growing up, took things very seriously, and is probably the hardest-working guy you will ever see.
“With Nick, it was the same thing. He was a hard-working guy, a best friend with everyone on the team and a good guy to get along with."
Graham, who had 51 points in 37 regular-season games with a veteran Wild squad a year ago, understands there are going to be "learning curves and growing pains" this season.
He wants to lead by example and help make the rookies' transition to a new league as smooth as possible.
"Everyone just needs to stay calm out on the ice," said Graham. "It's a big jump (from under-15 or minor under-18).
"They need to play their own game. It's still hockey, and nothing has changed, other than it's faster and more physical."
Alex Graham’s major under-18 hockey statistics:
GP G A Pts
4 3 4 7
GP G A Pts
37 26 25 51
GP G A Pts
1 0 0 0
GP G A Pts
33 9 14 23
GP G A Pts
4 0 0 0
Jason Simmonds is a sports reporter with the Journal Pioneer.