Resuming our series honoring our age-out players this year is the final link to the 2018 NA3HL Fraser Cup Final team: defenseman Mark Capkovic.
A native of South St. Louis County who grew up playing youth hockey for the Affton Americans, the 5’9”, 175 lb left-hander first joined the Jr. Blues in 2017 from the AAA Blues. It was clear from his first weekend that the Jr. Blues had a talented player on their hands, as he scored his first junior-hockey goal in only his second game. Capkovic went on to score seven goals and 21 assists in 39 games with a +23 rating. He earned a trip to the Top Prospects Tournament as part of the 18U Selects White team, where he picked up four assists in three games. In the playoffs, he played in all seven games during the Fraser Cup run, with one goal and three assists to his credit. Following that season, Capkovic was tendered by the Shreveport Mudbugs of the NAHL: in Louisiana he played 35 career games, with two goals and an assist at the Tier II level.
However, this year he said that the combination of an early-season trade to Lone Star, inability to crack the lineup there, and the sudden passing of his grandmother convinced him that he wanted to finish out his final year of junior hockey at home. “I thought it over, and it was good to weigh the options of coming back and playing for Greg [Anderson] and Chris. I wanted to have some fun for my last year, as much as I loved it my first year,” he said.
“Having Mark come back this year was really something that benefited this team,” said Jr. Blues head coach Chris Flaugher. “He’s a guy who knows what it’s like to win and succeed with the Jr. Blues organization. He brought a good mentality to both the team as a whole as well as his own play: he’s a guy who plays with a presence out there at all times.”
Capkovic said that “there’s a culture that Flaugher instilled in us the first year I was there, and I tried to do it how the Jack Hattons, Tommy Yurisich, [Cameron] McAtee did, be that older, veteran presence and follow up on how they taught me.”
In his return to St. Louis, Capkovic was as usual a strong presence on the ice, with four goals and 10 assists in 26 games. His year was cut short twice in cruel fashion: first a shoulder injury that sidelined him until the end of the regular season, and then the cancellation of the Fraser Cup Playoffs due to COVID-19 that meant his last game for the Jr. Blues was against Peoria on February 2nd, where he recorded an assist.
Capkovic said that his favorite memory of his time with the Jr. Blues came this year, where he came back home for his final season. “I love Flaughs and I love Greg as coaches, and I loved playing those big games against Peoria, those rough, gritty games. Then you go up to Rochester and North Iowa, always rival games. Those are the games that are why you play.”
Next year Capkovic will go down the well-trod path for Jr. Blues to Missouri State University. He credits his last year to restoring his passion for hockey and opening the door to go to play college hockey, and reminded future players to “keep the Junior Note way going….Keep learning from all the veterans. They know how hard it is to get looked at from NAHL and USHL and college scouts. Just take it one day at a time and never get discouraged.”
Next in the series: forward Jake Wiethaupt