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Derek Stepan and Niklas Hjalmarsson named Coyotes’ alternate captains

(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

The Arizona Coyotes announced Wednesday they have named center Derek Stepan and defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson as alternate captains for the 2018 season.

Stepan and Hjalmarsson were both part of a leadership group last season that contained five players including Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Brad Richardson and Alex Goligoski, who rotated wearing the “A” designation on their jerseys throughout the season.

“There’s a lot of guys deserving. We have a great leadership group,” head coach Rick Tocchet said. “A guy like Brad Richardson could definitely wear any kind of letter. He’s a big part of our thing. But I think Step and Nik are good choices and like I said, we have [Alex Goligoski], he’s been great on leadership. [Antti Raanta] has been good, obviously to help [Oliver Ekman-Larsson]. It’s a committee, but instead of floating the A’s, just get two guys permanent and those are deserving guys.”

The team had decided to play without a captain last season following the retirement of Shane Doan, who was the captain since the 2003-04 season.

Ekman-Larsson was named the team captain for the Coyotes on Sept. 13, the first to replace Doan since his retirement.

“Obviously an honor to be a part of,” Stepan said. “I want to help our new captain as much as I can. I want to lead our forward group as much as I can, and that’s something I’ve done since I’ve been here and that’s not going to change. Obviously to have the ‘A’ on my jersey is something that is a big deal to me, I don’t take it lightly and I want to make sure that I hold myself accountable and be professional and lead these young guys.”

Stepan played in all 82 games for Arizona last season finishing with 14 goals and a career high 42 assists. He is entering his ninth season, second with the Coyotes after playing seven seasons with the Rangers.

“It’s a huge honor,” Hjalmarsson said. “I never thought I was going to be playing with an ‘A’ on my chest when I was growing up as a kid playing at home in Sweden. But I’m very proud and humbled to have been chosen to have an ‘A’ on my chest, it doesn’t really matter the way how I am in the locker room or on the ice. I’m just trying to lead with an example.

“I’m a pretty quiet guy off the ice but I usually try to talk and scream and get into the game when the game starts, so I’m going to try to do my best.”

Hjalmarsson is entering his second season with the Coyotes appearing in 48 games last season, logging nine points and a minus-3 in the plus/minus category. He spent his first 10 seasons in the NHL with the Chicago Blackhawks and was part of three Stanley Cup-winning teams in Chicago.

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