For three seasons, Spencer Hewson has filled every role the Nanaimo Clippers have asked of him. Now they’re asking him to take on his greatest role yet – team captain.
The 20-year-old forward from Vernon was named the next Clippers captain this past weekend.
“I was honoured,” Hewson said. “I’ve been lucky enough over the years to have a lot of great leaders with this team, so it’s going to be some big shoes to fill, was the first thought.”
Mike Vandekamp, Clippers coach, said although the club doesn’t know what the team will look like in 2016-17, the coaching staff was confident that nobody could come in and be a better candidate for captain than Hewson.
“He does everything right, leads by example with good habits both on and off the ice, attention to detail,” Vandekamp said. “We couldn’t ask for anything more than that as a captain.”
Hewson has played primarily on checking lines during his years with the Clippers, and he is also one of the team’s top penalty killers. When needed, he has slotted into scoring-line duties and he’s even played games as a defenceman. Hewson was third in the B.C. Hockey League’s Fortis B.C. Energy Player of the Game standings in 2015-16 and was chosen Unsung Hero at the Clippers’ year-end awards banquet this past weekend.
“I’m not looking to change the way I handle myself too much, because it’s what I think they’re looking for and why they chose me to have this role,” he said.
But the team will have higher expectations from Hewson when it comes to putting up numbers.
“He has the ability to create offence and I think if we allow him a consistent opportunity to play in those situations, he’ll do that,” Vandekamp said.
Hewson, who scored 11 goals and 24 points in 56 games this past season, said he believes he has more offensive upside than he’s yet shown.
“I think it’s just getting the opportunity. You play whatever role your team needs,” he said. “[Scoring] is something I’m excited for the opportunity for. As long as you’re taking care of the defensive zone and those things, it should come.”
He’s expecting to have a strong core of teammates supporting him.
“This week has been tough saying goodbye to guys, but we’re getting a good feel that we’re going to have a lot of excellent players come back … and I’m sure that Mike’s going to do a hell of a job recruiting,” Hewson said.
It should make for top-notch product on the ice, he said, and he suggested fans should have high expectations because the Clippers have those expectations of themselves every year, no matter the calibre of players who graduate.
“Completely. The goal every single year is to win the Fred Page Cup,” Hewson said. “We’ve had two excellent seasons and I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of those two teams, but we’ve come up short.”
He said the Clippers had the roster to win it all each of the past two years, and were so close that it was basically just a matter of bad luck – pucks hitting the post and staying out. It’s motivation to try to get back there, Hewson said.
“It’s crazy how quickly you’re already looking forward to it, already thinking about what the lineup’s going to look like, and you’re looking forward to seeing who comes in [and] seeing guys move up…” he said. “And you’re excited to get another chance to have that one shot go post and in.”