KENNEWICK -- Growing up in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Adam Hughesman, Brendan Shinnimin and Mason Wilgosh were leaders on their teams.
Together, the trio won two bantam and one pee wee championship.
Monday, the three longtime friends and teammates were chosen as leaders for the Tri-City Americans, with Wilgosh as captain and Hughesman and Shinnimin as assistant captains.
Also, Justin Feser and Patrick Holland were selected as assistant captains -- they will rotate the letter between home and road games.
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"It's an honor to get this," Wilgosh said. "I'm happy they think so highly of me. We (along with Shinnimin and Hughesman) just took a picture, and when we were younger, we had one just like it. I know they are happy for me and I'm happy for them. It means a lot to us. We have been together for so long it will be sad when it's over, but we want to finish the year with a bang and a make a good memory here."
Tri-City coach Jim Hiller has had his eyes on Wilgosh since the start of training camp.
"He's a guy who came in this year not knowing where he'd fit," Hiller said. "The night I won't forget is when we played an exhibition game against Spokane. It was the third game in three nights. It was just the preseason and Willie played as hard as he'd played in a playoff game. It mattered no different to him whether it was a preseason game or the final game against Calgary a couple of years ago. He just brings it. And that's why you see him right here."
After introducing Wilgosh, Americans general manager Bob Tory moved on to the assistants.
"Our leadership team wouldn't be complete if you had one guy from Winnipeg without a couple others from Winnipeg to join him," Tory said. "Brendan was crushed when I sent him home at 16 and told him there wasn't a spot on the team for him. He was a small guy who has gotten better and better each year and proved his critics wrong. He challenged for the scoring title last year (96 points), he's one of the elite players in the league and has a work ethic that is unparalleled in the league."
Hughesman, who has been with the Americans his entire career, was one of the top scorers in the league last year, and is the WHL scoring leader going into tonight's game with 16 points.
"It's pretty amazing how thing work out," Hughesman said. "Us three have been together forever. I know how happy our parents are back in Winnipeg. It wasn't for sure. We came here with five or six 20 year olds, and for it work out this way we are really happy."
The connection on the ice between Hughesman and Shinnimin paid dividends for the Americans last year and the start of this season as the team is off to a 5-2-0-0 start with the pair accounting for seven goals and 15 assists.
"They are two players with great offensive chemistry together," Hiller said. "Over the last couple of years they have scored a ton of points. They have been very, very dangerous on the ice. Everybody loves to score goals and get points and these two do it better than anyone else."
The letters for the Winnipeg players are nothing new. Wilgosh and Shinnimin wore captain's letters in their younger days, and all three were assistants many times.
"It just brings you back to when we were kids in minor hockey," Shinnimin said. "We wore letters there, and now that we are 20 and it's our last year, it's cool that we got the letters this year. Taking on the responsibility of leading a team to what we hope is a championship would be awesome, considering we won a few championships back when we were younger. That's the goal. It's pretty early in the season. We are focusing on playing hockey and helping guys learn the game and progressing into great players. If we do a good job at that, we'll have a good shot at it."
Holland and Feser, both 19, earned high praise from Tory and Hiller, but Feser took a little ribbing from his coach.
"We joke about this. Feser is a silver spoon guy," Hiller said. "I don't think he's sat out a game. When you come in at 16, you have to pay your dues. All of these guys have paid their dues at different times. Feser is one of those rare and unique players that comes right in at 16 and already understands the commitment that is required and the effort on the ice. It was a natural progression from 16 to now, just playing like a leader every night."
Holland, in his third year with the team, had 22 goals and 40 assists last year and is off to a good start with five assists this season.
"This organization is second to none. I'm happy to be here and proud to play here," Holland said.