Updated January 13, 2021 - 4:47 pm
The Golden Knights’ top decision makers met before the start of the previous three seasons to discuss whether to name a captain and came to the same conclusion each time.
The first year it was determined that a leadership group was the best course of action for an expansion club, and it worked so well they stuck with it for the next two seasons as well.
“The discussions this year pointed to an obvious guy,” general manager Kelly McCrimmon said Wednesday.
Mark Stone, the Knights’ fiery right wing and inspirational leader, was named the first captain in franchise history ahead of Thursday’s season opener against Anaheim at T-Mobile Arena.
Stone, 28, is entering his second full season and third with the team. He was called into coach Pete DeBoer’s office Wednesday and notified of the decision.
Alex Pietrangelo and Reilly Smith were named alternate captains for the 2020-21 season.
“I was kind of speechless. For this organization in three years to be where it’s at, it’s very humbling for me,” Stone said. “It’s a big honor. Something that I’m not going to take lightly and something that I’m really excited to do.
“I think I still have another gear to give and hopefully this can motivate me even more.”
We would just tell you who our first captain is…
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) January 13, 2021
Stone served as an alternate captain last season and is the team’s highest-paid player, with a $9.5 million salary cap hit through 2026-27.
He established himself as the Knights’ emotional spark plug after being acquired in a trade from the Ottawa Senators on Feb. 25, 2019.
His passionate celebrations after goals have become his trademark with the #ExpressiveMarkStone hashtag often trending on Twitter.
“He’s invested in the game and you can tell that every shift,” DeBoer said. “I’ve never seen a guy happier when other guys on the team score than Mark Stone. He’s happier than when he scores himself. That selflessness shines through. He’s got all those qualities you’re looking for.”
Stone finished second behind Max Pacioretty in scoring last season with 63 points in 65 games and posted his sixth straight 20-goal season. In the playoffs, Stone added seven goals and 17 points in 20 games to help the Knights reach the Western Conference Final.
Stone is one of the league’s top two-way wingers and leads the NHL in takeaways by a wide margin since he entered the league in 2012-13.
He finished second in the voting for the Selke Trophy as the league’s top defensive forward after the 2018-19 season and was fifth last season.
“I think it was time,” defenseman Brayden McNabb said. “We got ourselves established, and now we have a leader that we can count on. Everyone’s excited for it. It was just time and I’m happy for Stoney. It’s very well deserved.”
New Jersey, the New York Rangers and Ottawa are the only NHL teams without a captain. Detroit named Dylan Larkin its captain Wednesday.
The Boston Bruins in 1972 are the last team to win the Stanley Cup without a captain.
“Ultimately, my main goal is to win the Stanley Cup,” Stone said. “I’m going to for sure be preaching that to everybody.”
A native of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Stone played junior hockey for Brandon of the Western Hockey League and was coached by McCrimmon. He was selected by Ottawa in the sixth round (No. 178 overall) of the 2010 NHL draft and soaked up the leadership style of Senators captains Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza and Erik Karlsson.
Stone was named an alternate captain for the Senators in 2017 and served until he was dealt to the Knights for defense prospect Erik Brannstrom, forward Oscar Lindberg and a 2020 second-round draft pick.
He has totaled 26 goals and 74 points in 83 games with the Knights and 385 points (149 goals, 236 assists) in 449 NHL games.
Stone won a gold medal with Team Canada at the 2016 IIHF World Championship and took home silver in 2019 when he served as an alternate captain.
“He does everything the right way on the ice and in terms of what the coaches ask of him,” McCrimmon said. “I expect that he’ll grow into this role very nicely. In fact, I think that him being named captain will help him be an even better player.”
Mark Stone file
Birthplace: Winnipeg, Manitoba
Draft: Sixth round (No. 178 overall) by Ottawa in 2010
2019-20 stats: 21 goals, 42 assists, 63 points in 65 games