The Nashville Predators announced Wednesday that forward Patric Hornqvist has been named an alternate captain for the 2013-14 season, joining Shea Weber (captain) and Mike Fisher (alternate captain) in the team’s leadership group.
Given the amount of veteran leaders the team now possesses, the decision for Barry Trotz to go with Hornqvist was a difficult one – one that caught the 26-year-old power forward by surprise.
“Obviously you want to have an ‘A’ on your chest but it came as a surprise,” said Hornqvist, who learned of the news Tuesday night. “I’m really proud, but it’s not going to change my game. I’m going to come to the rink the same way I have for the last five years, but obviously this is a big moment in my career.”
Immediately at the conclusion of the 2012-13 season, where Hornqvist missed 24 games with various injuries, the former seventh-round pick signed a five-year, $21.25 million contract to stay in Nashville. That new deal, along with Wednesday’s news, has added a lot of responsibility to Hornqvist’s plate.
“It’s a big honor to get the ‘A’,” he said. “We have a lot of good guys in our locker room and I really think we’re going to have a good year. We changed some people around, got some really good players in there and some good leaders, too. That makes the honor a little higher for me.”
Hornqvist has put last season behind him, as he was a non-factor most of the season due to injury. However, the Predators expect him to return to his old form – scoring 20-30 goals in front of the net and bringing a lot of positive energy to the ice every night.
The Predators could have gone with established veterans such as Kevin Klein, David Legwand or Paul Gaustad, or newbies Matt Cullen, Matt Hendricks or Eric Nystrom. The wealth of experience made it a hard decision for Trotz and company.
“When we started talking about who drives the team, the guys that guys respect because they bring it every night, which guy plays like a Predator – when it came to all those factors it kept pointing to Patric,” Head Coach Barry Trotz said. “I’m happy for him and he deserves that opportunity. No slight against the other guys; we’ve got some good leaders this year. It’s probably one of the more difficult decisions we’ve had to make in a long time.”
The team’s slogan this season is ‘Play Like a Predator’, which goes along with their quest of returning to Predator Hockey identity. Hornqvist embodies that identity fully, given his passion for the game and knack for playing 110 percent on a nightly basis.
Never was that more evident than when Hornqvist made a courageous shot block in front of an empty net during an April 6 tilt against the Chicago Blackhawks last season. With their playoff hopes fading fast, the Predators lost the game 1-0. But that didn’t stop Hornqvist from keeping his team in the game.
“You know Patric Hornqvist is in front of the net when Shea is shooting the puck,” Trotz said, “but that was a Predator that night. We were eliminated; he was injured a lot more than people knew; he battled, he dove, he saved a goal. Those are the intangibles; that’s why you win.”