Langley’s Alec Capstick (#11) gets in the way of Prince George Spruce Kings’ Jeremiah Luedtke during the Rivermen’s 4-3 overtime victory on Thursday (Feb. 19) at the Langley Events Centre. Capstick

Langley’s Alec Capstick (#11) gets in the way of Prince George Spruce Kings’ Jeremiah Luedtke during the Rivermen’s 4-3 overtime victory on Thursday (Feb. 19) at the Langley Events Centre. Capstick

Capstick sticks close to home — for now

Langley's Alec Capstick will play junior A with the Rivermen for the next two years before joining Notre Dame Fighting Irish

It has been quite the month for Alec Capstick.

In reverse order, Capstick has reached a significant teenage milestone by celebrating his 16th birthday, committed to play next season with the junior A Langley Rivermen, and verbally accepted a full-ride scholarship to play Division 1 hockey with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

Capstick turned 16 last week (Feb. 18), committed to the Rivermen the day before that, and the week before that (Feb. 11), announced his intentions to join Notre Dame in a couple of years — he still has two full years of high school to complete.

“It is nice, now I can focus, get back in the gym,” Capstick said.

“That (college decision) is out of my head now and I can focus on improving my game on and off the ice.”

Capstick is a puck-moving defenceman, good in both his own zone and in leading the attack.

“He has got great offensive instincts,” said Brad Bowen, Capstick’s coach with the Yale Hockey Academy’s U18 Prep team in Abbotsford.

Bowen has also coached him with the Vancouver Selects spring hockey program, as well as through summer camps since Capstick was about eight years old.

“He jumps into the play extremely well and he can run a power play.”

Capstick played bantam rep hockey with the Langley Eagles last year, racking up 21 goals and 62 points in 70 games.

He has eight goals and 20 points in 24 games this season with Yale, which plays in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League.

Bowen said Capstick — who is five-foot-11 and 160 pounds — struggled a little bit in September as he made the adjustment to playing against older and bigger competition.

“Because he is such a smart kid and works extremely hard in practice, it didn’t take him long to get up to speed,” Bowen said.

“At times he has been our best defenceman and he has always been in the top four.”

In league and tournament play, the Yale team has lost just four games all season, and only once in regulation. And among those accomplishments was winning the gold medal at a prestigious U16 tournament, the Chicago World Bauer Invite back in November, knocking off the second-ranked team in United States in the finals.

The Yale team’s performance at that tournament began garnering attention from NCAA scouts. Capstick is the third member of the Lions to verbally commit.

Once he visited the famed Notre Dame campus in South Bend, Indiana, Capstick was sold on joining the Fighting Irish.

Capstick loved the rink, facilities and the coaching staff, and the fact the university is one of the top ranked schools academically.

“It was the perfect mix of the two,” he said.

A fourth round draft pick of the Saskatoon Blades in last spring’s WHL bantam draft, Capstick had already decided against playing major junior and go the college route instead.

“School has always been very important to me and my family so we thought it would be best to go,” explained the straight-A student.

Traditionally, a player will use the BCHL to showcase themselves for college and university scouts.

But with that already done, Capstick can instead focus on developing his game and getting stronger.

With a handful of BCHL teams interested, Capstick chose the Rivermen.

“Just everything about it felt right,” he said, adding he really wanted the chance to play at home in Langley.

He is already familiar with the Rivermen having played three games as an affiliate (under-age) player. Capstick was in the line-up last week (Feb. 19) in a 4-3 overtime victory over the Prince George Spruce Kings, registering his first point, an assist.

“We are really excited to have him next year,” said Rivermen head coach and general manager Bobby Henderson.

“Obviously there was no shortage of teams after him, so it was definitely nice to get him.

“He projects to be a real high-end defenceman; a very intelligent player.”

Both Henderson and Bowen also raved about Capstick’s character off the ice.

And from his brief stint in the BCHL, Henderson has been impressed.

“Unbelievable poise for (an under-age) player in our league,” the coach said.

“He jumped in and played regular shifts and played some special teams. Nothing really phased him, he just looked comfortable out there, which is really impressive.”

Capstick and his Yale team are getting ready for the playoffs. After that, he will turn his attention on preparing for his first full junior hockey season, where he will go up against players who may be four years his senior.

“He has the college commitment out of they way, which is nice, so he can focus on playing and developing and getting himself ready for the next level,” Henderson said.