During his time in the Ontario Hockey League, new Penguin Michael Webster always played with a chip on his shoulder. He was never a highly touted player in midget hockey, and barely squeezed into major junior role.
However, once he was there, he made the most of his opportunity.
“I was a 12th rounder (in the OHL Draft), so I don’t think anyone expected me to be there very long, let alone get to be the captain,” Webster said.
Defying the odds not only to become one of the best defensemen in the league last year, Webster evolved into a one of the first-class people playing in the OHL. During his time with the “C” on his chest, Webster was nominated for the OHL’s Dan Snyder Memorial Trophy for outstanding community service, and he was the 2016 recipient of the Mickey Renaud Captain’s Trophy, awarded annually to the team captain in the OHL that most exemplifies the attributes of leadership on the ice, in the locker room and in the community.
Webster tries to deflect credit to Barrie Colts owner Howie Campbell for getting the team involved in many community activities, but the fact remains that Webster is still the one corralling his teammates to make sure it’s the Colts team – not just one guy – going to local hospice, Simcoe, for visits, signing autographs for young fans, and even getting everyone on board for crazy haircuts. It’s not just about the style, some tough hairdos were a big part of what got Webster nominated for those awards.
“There’s March Mullet charity, which promotes mental health awareness in the month of March,” Webster said. “There were a lot of incidents in the OHL where guys passed away, like in Saginaw (Terry Trafford), so it was really prevalent at my time when I was in ‘the O’. So I thought it was a really important thing, and it was gaining a lot of momentum throughout the world. It was great to help out there.
“Obviously, you know guys or whether it’s family, friends who are affected by mental illness. So it was a great way to spread awareness and raise money.”
So simple, so silly, yet who knows what kind of an impact that could have down the road for just one person going through a struggle.
As for his on-ice leadership abilities, well, one again Webster gives kudos to someone else. He says he’s fortunate to have had the chance to learn from some excellent leaders when he was a much younger buck on the Colts squad.
“I had a lot of great captains in Barrie,” Webster said. “Aaron Ekblad, Ryan O’Connor, Joseph Blandisi, every guy there is playing pro, too, in the NHL right now. I learned a lot from them… They all have a lot of the same qualities. They’re driven, motivated, very disciplined, and they all have great work habits. The come to the rink, and they keep moving. They’re moving as fast as they can every day.”
If Webster was impressed by the work ethic and determination of his captains in Barrie, just wait until he gets the chance to learn from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins captain, Tom Kostopoulos. That’s two different generations of captains and a lot of leadership in one room.
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