A Captain as defined by Wiki;
“..has numerous responsibilities to the team, particularly in North American professional hockey. The Captain is a dressing room leader, and also represents the players’ concerns to management.”
Last season Bracken Kearns was named Captain of the 2017-’18 AHL All-Star team in the Eastern Conference. It was quite an honor for the veteran forward that represented the Binghamton Devils. Good on Kearns as the league acknowledged his valuable presence as one of a few select members in the AHL. But yet, he wasn’t regulated to that role for his own team in Binghamton.
Instead, it went vacant, because no one served as Captain of the BDevils last year. Despite this, Kearns continued to march along with the letter ‘A’ instead of a deserving ‘C’ sewn on his jersey.
Looking back in the history of Binghamton hockey, I don’t ever recall a club not having a Captain in over 40 years of existence. And on top of that, I do not want to go through another year of questions as to why or why not there was one.
However, I might have found an answer.
A Trend In Leadership Role
Enter Kevin Rooney for the 2018-’19 campaign.
Binghamton Devils’ head coach Rick Kowalsky hinted midway through last season that the 6’ 2” 190 lb native out of Canton, MA could fill that role as a leading candidate. And that's a big if with the blessing behind Kowalsky’s thinking considering the gritty, defensive specialist.
The 25-years-old had begun his run as team Captain back in 2011-12 at Berkshire School in his second year of the USHS-Prep league. That was followed by another Captain role in his senior year of 2015-16 after spending four years at Providence University with the Friars of Division I hockey in the NCAA.
So why was this so difficult in addressing?
Because the apparent hurdle to overcome was that there were enough leaders in the locker room and they knew their role. And I’m not buying it one bit. If this would indeed come to fruition for the BDevils, the first thing in order would be to re-sign the RFA for it to become a reality.
71.11 / C-, 76.75 / C, 80.75 / B-, 85.62 / B (7th Player Award)
A defensive forward with quick legs that excels on the PK and can also play a sound two-way game with a decent shot to boot, while doing the little things in all the right areas. The main focus on the forecheck being in the forefront for Rooney in both the bottom and top-six lines while providing a push when called upon.
Rooney is not considered a top prospect at this stage of his career. However, his trend was up and coming as his votes in the quarterly grades indicated by The Panel. Sometimes it’s the little things that meant the most as a versatile forward in Rooney that surely would fit the bill as his grades continued to rise in each quarter.
In 2016-’17 the undrafted Rooney posted 13 goals and 8 assists in 71 outings for the Albany Devils before the franchise moved to Binghamton, NY.
In his second full season in the pros, the PK specialist finished with a team-high four shorthanded goals. On any given night, you would find him fiercely defending the puck on the forecheck, whether it would be in on the 5v5 action or serving time on the PK, one could count on Rooney as he was always dedicated on a consistent basis.
Not the most prolific player in point production, but a big locker room presence nonetheless as Rooney ended up with a career-high 14 goals, 20 assists in 71 contests for the BDevils last season. He was also elected as the winner of the 7th Player Award given out to the player whose performance was most exceeded by any fan’s expectations.
Had a cup of coffee with the big club in late September when prospect Michael McLeod went down with a leg injury that eventually saddled him to the IR, and in addition, the big club missing some key forwards.
Do not let this be a problematic situation, make it happen.
Get It Done Newark
Even though he might be under the radar a bit, his value is team chemistry and as a depth player, and to help aid younger prospects throughout the Devils’ Organization. It’s the necessary move to sign Rooney that has been with the club in a leadership status as demonstrated in the past and present for the minor club in the NJ Devils’ Organization.
He reminds me of Derek Grant not so long ago for the Binghamton Senators in many ways with his crafty shorthanded skills and leadership qualities on as well as off the ice with strong work ethics. These type of character players don’t come along very often and are in demand, especially in the AHL with a voice for the players.
Rooney is a classic answer that fits the mode. I would be shocked if the Devils didn’t tender a new two-way deal and would be very disappointed if he wasn’t offered one.
Now, about that Captain’s role coach.
Next up for First Impressions; Goalie Ken Appleby, as the undrafted, restricted free agent should be offered a new contract without question during the off-season following his outstanding work in Binghamton.