The Tri-City Americans rounded out their leadership team Wednesday, naming Jesse Mychan, Connor Rankin, Mitch Topping and Zach Yuen assistant captains.
Justin Feser, in his fifth season with the team, is this year’s team captain.
“I came in wanting to be a leader from the start,” said Mychan, one of the team’s overage forwards. “This is the cherry on top. It’s an honor to have that letter on my jersey, for sure. It’s the first time I’ve had one.”
While Mychan and Yuen will wear the letter every game, Rankin will wear it on the road, while Topping will wear it during home games.
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With 27 players in the dressing room, Americans general manager Bob Tory had plenty of players to choose from, but he said he sought to meet certain criteria.
“Character is the first issue,” Tory said. “Their work ethic and history with the team are main ones, too. It’s a big job. These are players who we believe can support Justin.
“I tell them many times, much is given and much is expected. For those who wear the letter, I don’t expect them to take it lightly. It’s not always easy to do the right thing. We have a responsibility to help them grow into fine young men. We’ve been fortunate to be blessed with good people over the years. That’s what makes junior hockey so special.”
The leadership team not only leads by example on the ice, but in the community, where the Americans average 2,500 man hours of service each year.
“I personally like being out and meeting our fans,” Mychan said. “It’s one of my passions as a hockey player. You have to support them as much as they support you.”
Mychan, who came over in a trade with Everett last year, had seven goals and five assists in 18 games for the Americans. He suffered a severed Achilles’ tendon in the third game of the playoffs against the Silvertips and missed the remainder of the season.
Mychan went through months of rehabilitation to rejoin the Americans this season.
“I did a lot of work to my body and my mind to be a leader on this team, and they saw that,” he said. “I was going to be a leader regardless, but now I have a bigger role on the team, and they will need me night in and night out.”
Yuen, one of the top defensemen in the league, is in his fourth year with the Americans.
The fourth-round pick of the Winnipeg Jets in the 2011 NHL draft, he led the Tri-City defensemen last year with 12 goals, 26 assists and a league-best plus-45 rating.
“I knew they were going to select them before the start of the season, but I didn’t expect anything,” Yuen said. “I wanted to help lead this team. I feel very honored.”
Topping, in his second year with the Americans, played three seasons with the Chilliwack Bruins before coming over in a trade before last season. The defenseman had four goals, 16 assists and a plus-11 rating last year.
“This is a huge honor,” Topping said. “I’ve always been a vocal guy in the room, and I guess that came through. We could have 12 assistant captains on the team, but we have a really strong leadership group this year.”
Rankin, the Americans’ top bantam draft pick in 2009, is coming off a season in which he scored 18 goals with 21 assists and a plus-19 rating. He missed 10 games with a broken thumb.
“This was very unexpected,” said Rankin, a third-year forward. “They usually look for guys with experience to lead them through things they have been through.”
Rankin, who wore a captain’s letter when he was 15, said he is up for the challenge.
“We all lead in different ways,” he said. “Personally, I think they looked at my work ethic on and off the ice. I work hard in games, in practice and make the young guys feel comfortable.”
w Annie Fowler: 582-1574; firstname.lastname@example.org