VICTORIA, B.C. — A year ago, P.J. Conlon came to Victoria just hoping to make the squad.
Now, the calendar flipped 12 months ahead, the product of Goderich, Ont., is the captain of the BCHL’s Victoria Grizzlies.
The 20-year-old forward was named team captain this week by Head Coach/GM Craig Didmon, whose team is preparing to open the BCHL season Friday on the road against the Cowichan Valley Capitals. The Grizzlies will play five games away from the Q Centre before the home opener on October 1 against the Coquitlam Express.
“P.J. is a leader on and off the ice, and the good thing about this team is the coaching staff knows he’s not the only leader we have, so he will have support from the entire lineup,” said Didmon. “We don’t have just one guy we’ll look to, as a coaching staff, to take us where we want to go. Our older players didn’t have to be told that we’re expecting them to show our younger guys what it takes to be successful in the BCHL.”
Conlon, a 6-0/180-pound centre who can play in all situations, was durable in playing 57 games as a BCHL rookie, scoring six times and adding 13 assists for 19 points. The accomplished tennis player and golfer wears the number 12 on his back. He is a product of the Upper Canada College prep program, where he was the captain before moving to the Grizzlies.
Four players will rotate wearing the three assistant captain ‘A’s on their left chest. Forwards Brayden Gelsinger and Cole Pickup, and defencemen Kevin Massy and Cody Van Lierop, have been given the extra responsibility.
CAPTAIN — P.J. Conlon
ASSISTANT CAPTAINS — Brayden Gelsinger, Kevin Massy, Cole Pickup, Cody Van Lierop
“Brayden brings experience from the WHL and is a proven point-producer in the BCHL, and Cole has a way about him that leads other players. Kevin and Cody are important parts of our defence crew and have a lot of experience to share with the younger players on the team.”
Gelsinger, a 20-year-old from Regina, spent his early junior hockey years with the Kamloops Blazers, and has 94 points over two seasons in the BCHL (Cowichan Valley, West Kelowna). Pickup, from Victoria, is entering his fourth season as a Grizzlies player and is coming off back-to-back 21-point seasons.
Massy, another Victoria product, was the playoff MVP for the Grizzlies last spring, and the 6-3/205-pound defenceman is going into his third season after posting 22 points as a rookie and following up with 33 points, including nine goals, in 2014-15.
Van Lierop, from Sutton West, Ont., is a rugged 19-year-old who played 54 games last season with four goals and eight points, along with 45 penalty minutes.