Tom Kostopoulos’ playing career might be over, but his legacy among teammates is going to live on for a long, long time. The long-time Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins captain has had his praises sung by more than a handful of Pittsburgh’s back-to-back Stanley Cup Champions in 2016 and 2017, and his name has been brought up by the prospects at development camp this week, as well.
Both Alex D’Orio and Niclas Almari mentioned Kostopoulos as a huge influence unprompted at different times during their media availability at the UMPC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry, Pennsylvania. It’s natural to understand why players that ascended from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to eventually getting their names inscribed on Lord Stanley would speak highly of Kostopoulos’ contributions to their development.
But what makes D’Orio and Almari’s comments stand out is the fact that neither of them was a teammate of Kostopoulos’ for more than a month. D’Orio and Almari joined Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on amateur tryout agreements late in the 2017-18 campaign (D’Orio didn’t even get in a game,) but they both felt compelled to share their stories of the captain’s impact on the start of their professional careers.
“Off the ice, I learned so much with Tom Kostopoulos,” D’Orio said. “How to be a pro, on and off the ice. He played what, 20 years pro? I just looked at him and how he acted, and I tried to lean and be just like him.”
In a different locker room at the opposite side of the hall at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, Almari echoed D’Orio’s thoughts. Almari also used the phrase “how to be a pro” before running down a laundry list of lessons Kostopoulos taught him during their brief time together.
“Things like how to prepare before games, what to do after games, how to eat, all those small things,” Almari said. “It’s big for young guys to learn.”
“They’re just saying that because I bought them dinner,” Kostopoulos said with a big smile before continuing, “They’re good kids. I’ve said it before, this organization prides itself on bringing in good people. That’s who they keep around. That makes it fun to work with kids like that, and if they appreciate it, it makes you feel really good about yourself.”