ST. LOUIS, Mo- The Blues on Wednesday made official what had leaked out within the last week and was probably assumed by many hockey observers for weeks, announcing Ryan O’Reilly as the 23rd team captain in franchise history, succeeding Alex Pietrangelo, who signed a free agent contract with Las Vegas in the offseason.
“It’s amazing how things change,” O’Reilly, who was obtained from the Buffalo Sabres in July 2018, said to reporters in an afternoon Zoom conference. Coming here, being part of this group… I was kind of blown away seeing what it takes to lead, seeing ‘Petro’ and the way he handles himself and the other veterans here. I think I’ve learned a lot these two years about what it takes, how hard it is but how rewarding it can be.”
“To just go from winning to now this, being a captain, it’s something I never thought would happen,” he said, “There’s obviously a lot of work that comes along with it.”
He may not have foreseen wearing the “C” on his sweater, but O’Reilly, who has been seen as a role model for putting the work in on and off the ice, said he knew over the summer that he had more growth in him from a leadership perspective.
Over the summer, “I kind of knew it was my turn to evolve as a leader and be more involved,” O’Reilly said, as it became clearer that key veterans like Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester, Alexander Steen and Jake Allen were not likely to return to the club. Now it will be O’Reilly’s job to hold the next generation accountable to the standards which have been established.
“What those guys built here is something special. They were really responsible for eachother and made sure they competed at everything they did. Coming in here 2 years ago I really took notice of it and saw how important it was.”
O’Reilly called the 2020-2021 schedule, which begins January 13, “tough and exhausting.”