Photo credit: WHL Images

Washington Capitals’ 2012 seventh-round pick Jaynen Rissling, who impressed last year thanks to his grit and character, will return to his home province of Alberta for one more year with WHL’s Calgary Hitmen.

This year will be crucial for the development of the 6-foot-4, 223-pound defenseman as he’ll be playing not only for his team, but also for an entry-level contract with the Caps. And it’s gonna be a special year for him.

“I’ll probably be a captain there next year so it’s gonna be a lot of responsibility,” Rissling said to RMNB’s Ian Oland on the final day of Caps Development Camp. “I’m pretty excited about this kind of leadership change.”

The Hitmen, who lost in the conference finals to their arch-rival Edmonton Oil Kings in a seven-game heartbreaker during which the teams combined for 333 penalty minutes, were captained by centerman Cody Sylvester, who is no longer eligible for the junior league. Also moving on from Calgary are alternate captains defenseman Spencer Humphries, who has surprisingly chosen a contract from Lev Praha in the KHL over a tryout offer from his hometown Canucks; and Brooks Macek, who signed with the Iserlohn Roosters in the German DEL. Rissling is the only player from last year’s group of leaders who is likely to stay with the Hitmen. May, but not necessarily will.

Rissling, unlike many 2012-drafted CHLers, is eligible to play in the AHL this season. So it’s not yet a certainty that he’ll return to his junior squad. “Obviously, my goal is to keep getting stronger and faster over the summer and ultimately make Hershey,” he said. “But like I said if it’s not going to work out, I’m excited to go back to Calgary just for the leadership role and I think we’re gonna have another good team next year.”

The young defenseman wouldn’t be the first in his family to make it all the way to the big leagues. His uncle Gary participated in 221 NHL games, 37 with the Caps. “I think the day I got drafted, he was more excited than I was,” Rissling said. “Hopefully having a second Rissling come through here would mean a lot to my family. He was kicking around the rink here this week. I saw him and he said the same things, I gotta get meaner and I gotta get tougher to follow in his footsteps.”

Rissling will likely return to DC for training camp in September, and then we’ll learn his fate for the upcoming season.

Uncle Gary in a Caps alumni game last season. (Photo credit: Chris Gordon)

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