Washington Capitals forward Aliaksei Protas is ditching his number 59 and will be the newest number 21 in DC. The change is now shown on the Capitals’ official roster.
Garnet Hathaway wore the digits in DC for the past four seasons, but left the team after a trade deadline deal to the Boston Bruins in February. Over the offseason, Hathaway signed as an unrestricted free agent with the Philadelphia Flyers, inking a two-year deal worth $2.375 million a season.
Previously, Protas wore the number 59 for his entire NHL career up to this point, becoming only the second-ever Caps player to do so (Julien Brouillette). He was originally assigned the number during his first appearance at a Capitals preseason camp.
The big Belorussian has a past connection to his new number 21 as he wore it during his junior career with the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders. He then continued wearing it during his one season in the KHL with Dinamo Minsk.
Roger Pagé, Protas’ billet dad when the latter was in Prince Albert, celebrated the number change on his X account.
I’m unable to access the NHL website , but just got re-confirmation that this happened . How awesome is this !!! 🥳🥳🥳👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼 pic.twitter.com/ZjMm9G9nvt
— Cubby Slapp (@rogerapage) August 7, 2023
Protas spoke with The Athletic’s Tarik El-Bashir about his number in 2022 and hinted at an eventual update. “I don’t know for sure if I’ll change it,” Protas said. “Who am I to change it right now? Got to earn it. We’ll see later.”
After getting into a career-high 58 games with the Caps last season and playing a big role in the Hershey Bears’ successful run to the Calder Cup, Protas is preparing for his first season as a full-time NHL player. The big forward is heading into his first training camp under head coach Spencer Carbery, who Protas is familiar with after playing 16 games under him during the Bears’ 2020-21 campaign.
He’ll become the 16th player in Caps history to don the 21 sweater. Brooks Laich is the most tenured, wearing it for 12 years.
Via Hockey Reference, here are all of the others to wear it before Protas.
Steve Atkinson 1975
Mike Lampman 1976-1977
Dave Forbes 1978
Dennis Maruk 1979-1983
Andre Hidi 1984-1985
Daryl Evans 1986
Steve Leach 1986-1991
Mark Taylor 1986
Michal Pivonka 1987
Todd Krygier 1992-1997
Jeff Toms 1998-2000
James Black 2001
Glen Metropolit 2003
Brooks Laich 2004-2016
Garnet Hathaway 2020-2023
As for what’s next for the number 59, that will be up to prospect Brett Hyland. Hyland was assigned number 59 at the most recent Capitals Development Camp after being selected by the team in the seventh round of the 2023 draft.
Headline photo: Alan Dobbins/RMNB
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