Trail Smoke Eaters / Jennifer Small Photography

Meet the Cranbrook Bucks first ever captains


On November 5, the expansion Cranbrook Bucks named their first ever leadership group, made up of one captain and two assistants. The timing of the announcement came in the middle of their exhibition schedule, on the eve of their first home game.

As an expansion team preparing for its inaugural season, the Bucks have had little time to determine the leaders of the group. A few months worth of recruiting and a few weeks of training camp, to be exact. They did maintain consistency during the recruiting process, bringing in players who were leaders on their previous teams. This gave the Bucks plenty of options when it came to deciding on the team captains.

In their eyes, the Bucks staff has seen enough from the three young men who will wear letters on their jerseys. Let’s meet the Bucks first group of captains and examine what makes them leaders.

Briggs Gammill

The first captain in Bucks franchise history is 19-year-old forward Briggs Gammill. The New Canaan, Connecticut product has been a team leader in multiple ways, including offensive production. At the time of being named captain, he was the Bucks leader in points and assists, with four through three games played.

Being a team leader in offensive production is nothing new to Gammill. He put up some big numbers last season while playing for Berkshire School of the United States High School Prep League.

Gammill scored 25 goals and added 20 assists for 45 points in just 29 games. His goal total led the way for Berkshire last season, while his assists and point totals were second-best.

He leads in more ways than just numbers, though. Not only has he put up points, but he also drives the Bucks offensive attack when he is on the ice. He is a skilled, confident, reliable player with a calming influence on his young teammates, even while playing a fast-paced game.

When the Bucks announced Gammill’s commitment to the team last April, head coach and general manager Ryan Donald detailed his leadership capabilities.

“We are excited to be able to add a young man of Briggs’ character and ability to our roster,” said Donald. “Briggs was a key component of Berkshire’s hockey program over the past few seasons, ultimately leading them to the Elite-8 Semi-Finals this past season. He is a player that we will count on to lead our team both on and off the ice. Briggs will be a great addition to our program and the city of Cranbrook.”

Gammill is committed to Yale University for its 2021-22 season, so he will serve as Bucks captain for just one campaign.

Michael Hagen

20-year-old Michael Hagen will be an alternate captain in the Bucks inaugural leadership group. Not only is Hagen one of the team’s first captains, he was part of the franchise’s first ever trade.

Cranbrook acquired Hagen from the Okotoks Oilers of the Alberta Junior Hockey League back on October 1. He played 50 games with the Oilers last season and contributed 22 points.

In the previous season, Hagen played for the Beaver Valley NiteHawks of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. He notched 15 goals and 39 assists for 54 points in 44 regular season games. In the KIJHL playoffs that season, he added six goals and 18 assists for 24 points in 15 games.

Due to his time in the AJHL, Hagen is one of two players on the Bucks roster who does not have rookie status. He brings a couple of seasons of junior hockey experience to the Bucks, among a group with otherwise very little.

Like Gammill, the experience and confidence of Hagen’s game have been very noticeable. He seems to know here to be on the ice and makes the correct play most of the time.

Through three games before being named a captain, Hagen had contributed one goal and one assist, which tied him for third on the team’s points leaderboard. The Bucks will continue to rely on Hagen for not only offense but leadership as well, as this young team continues to progress.

Rhys Bentham

An 18-year-old defenseman from Calgary, Alberta, Rhys Bentham rounds out the Bucks inaugural leadership group. Wearing a letter is nothing new to Bentham, as he was the captain of the Calgary Royals U18 AAA squad last season.

Much like Gammill and Hagen, Bentham leads in a multitude of ways. He won’t lead in offensive production like the forwards, but he will be a lead-by-example type of player on the ice.

He is a noticeably steady, calm, and responsible defenseman who has proven to be tough to beat one-on-one. Bentham is an obvious leader among his defensive group, and the Bucks staff has tagged him as a team leader as well.

When the Bucks announced a commitment from Bentham way back in February, team president Nathan Lieuwen shared what he saw in Bentham.

”Rhys is a very intelligent and mobile defenseman who brings a lot to the table,” said Lieuwen. “His leadership and character fit the mold of our vision for this team.”

Let their play do the talking

Following the announcement of the leadership group on November 5, the Bucks went on to play five more pre-season games. The appointment of captaincy seemed to have a positive effect on all three players, as they saw their production soar.

In the Bucks’ 4-1 win over Trail on November 6, Gammill scored twice and added an assist. He followed that up by scoring two more goals in the 6-5 overtime loss to Trail on November 7. Gammill’s productive weekend brought him up to four goals and five assists for nine points through five games.

He went on to finish the exhibition season with four goals and seven assists for 11 points in eight games played. Each of those point totals were good enough for second on the Bucks, behind Dane Dowiak.

Hagen contributed one goal and one assist over the weekend split with the Smoke Eaters. He Finished the exhibition season with four goals and six assists for 10 points in eight games, which all ranked third on the team.

After tallying just one assist through his first five games, Bentham posted three assists in his next four games, to finish with four points in nine pre-season games.

Gammill, Hagen, and Bentham have and will continue to be leaders on the Bucks. If the exhibition season was any indication, the team is in good hands going forward.