Oct 5, 2018

By Tom Witosky

Follow @toskyAHLWild

Three veterans – two of them new to the Wild – are taking on the top leadership roles for the AHL club this season.

Iowa Head Coach Tim Army named veteran forward Cal O’Reilly as team captain for the second consecutive season and as well as naming newcomers Mike Liambas and Matt Read as alternate captains for the 2018-19 season.

Army announced the leadership trio at a players’ dinner Wednesday evening as the team completed its preseason training camp and prepares for a two-game series against the Manitoba Moose to start the season. The team will square off at 7:00 p.m. on Friday and 3:00 p.m. on Sunday at Wells Fargo Arena.

“We have three leaders who are not only bringing top hockey talent to the room, but they are also great people,” Army said.  They will listen, they will prod, they will help. I don’t think we could have three better leaders.”

In naming O’Reilly captain, Army said he learned quickly during training camp the level of respect players have for the veteran center, who set a club record with 64 points last season. Army said O’Reilly has the respect of the coaching staff and the team because of a quiet leadership that is based on setting a good example of hard work.

“He is a quiet leader who has the respect of everyone in the room and he will go about doing his thing without saying much,” Army said. “But when he does have something to say, it resonates in the room because of the respect he has from the players.”

O’Reilly said he was honored by the selection and believes the team is in an excellent position to be successful this season.

“It is always an honor to wear the ‘C,’” the 32-year-old veteran said. “With this group of guys, we have talent, size, smarts and grit. It’s rare to have this kind of quality veteran talent to mix in with some really good young players who can play.”

Army said he named Liambas and Read, both starting in their first season with Iowa, because they provided a broader type of leadership style. Liambas, a 29-year-old forward, played last season in San Diego after four seasons with the Milwaukee Admirals and one with Rockford.  Read, 32, signed with Minnesota in July after eight years in the Philadelphia Flyers organization.

“I decided I didn’t want our leaders to have the same personality,” Army said.

Army said Liambas provides energy and personality to the leadership group in an “old school” way.

“Mike adds a tremendous amount of energy and personality,” Army said. “Plus he isn’t afraid to ruffle some feathers and that is a good thing. Sometimes players have to be held accountable and he is comfortable doing it. He is old school in that sense.”

Of Read, Army said the NHL veteran fills in well between O’Reilly and Liambas because of his experience and the respect he already receives from the younger players.

“For the young guys, Matt is a great guy to watch,” Army said. “He has played more than 400 games in the NHL and that goes a long way with the younger players. When we chatted about it, I didn’t know how he would feel, but he was very excited about it.”

Both Liambas and Read expressed surprised by their selections, but said they were looking forward to helping the team build a successful season. Both have worn letters on their sweaters before; Liambas, an “A” with Milwaukee in 2016-17, and Read, who was the captain of the Des Moines Buccaneers during the 2006-07 USHL season.

Liambas said he considers himself only a part of an overall leadership group that includes other veterans like Kyle Rau, Colton Beck, Ryan Murphy, and Landon Ferraro. He said his job is to bring the same level of energy and commitment to the rink every day.

“We have a bigger leadership group with a number of other veterans we can include,” Liambas said. “We need a core group of guys who will be sending the same message to the rest of the team from the coaches.”

The Toronto native also said he identifies with the “old school” brand of hockey.

“I want to keep that alive as long as I can,” he said with a toothless smile.

Read agreed, adding that the example set by the veteran leaders is what is the most important part of the job.

“There are a lot of different types of captains, but the most important part of that is to lead by example,” Read said. “You need to show up every day to be the best you can be and to improve each and every day.”

As for the upcoming season, Read said the players are ready to get underway.

“The first game of the season is obviously a very exciting time to get going,” Read said. “It’s time to get back to the grind of the season. It is what we live for.”

O’Reilly added this season should be an interesting one for Wild fans in Iowa.

“We are going to have some guys who can really play and because of the amount of depth that we have,” O’Reilly said. “It will be an exciting year.”

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