From Juniors To Capitals, Aube-Kubel & Mantha Maintain Tight Bond
Washington Capitals forwards Anthony Mantha and Nicolas Aube-Kubel both played together in the QMJHL and have maintained their strong bond while becoming teammates again in D.C.
ARLINGTON, V.A. — A day after being claimed off waivers by the Washington Capitals, Nicolas Aube-Kubel made his way to the team's practice facility for morning practice. Not only was he coming off a night of little sleep and fresh off an early morning flight, but there were also nerves as he started over with a brand new organization. Then, he ran into old friend Anthony Mantha, and the whirlwind calmed down as he instantly felt at home with his longtime friend by his side.
Aube-Kubel's arrival in the District brought back several memories for both, who are now on the same team again for the first time since their junior days when they were just teenagers and NHL prospects hoping for a chance at the big show.
Mantha and Aube-Kubel were previously teammates during their QMJHL days when they played together for the Val d'Or Fourers from 2012 to 2014. The two had great chemistry on and off the ice and bonded over their Quebec roots and love for the French language, though they try to speak English in front of their teammates. Each rose to prominence with the team and made a major impact on offense, leading to a President's Cup victory in Mantha's final QMJHL season.
"It's always fun when you win with someone," Mantha said. "You kind of stay in touch a little bit more, and Kubes is probably one of a handful of guys that I did stay in touch with over the years."
Aube-Kubel ended up playing on a line with Mantha in his Capitals debut, and the two had decent chemistry in a 5-4 win over the Edmonton Oilers. Now, they are both competing to a keep a spot in the lineup with forwards getting set to return from injury.
"It's been a long time, it's a bit harder at this level," Aube-Kubel laughed. "But I mean, he's such a good shooter, so I just try to set him up."
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Aube-Kubel, who is two years younger than Mantha, has always looked up to No. 39 as a mentor both on and off the ice, citing his shooting ability, leadership and character.
"It's nice how he create scoring chance… I've known him since my junior years. Always been a good teammate to me," Aube-Kubel said. "He's a little older than me. In junior, he took me under his wing in Val d'Or. And he's done the same here."
For Mantha, the feeling's mutual. He praised Aube-Kubel's growth both on and off the ice and also rooted for his longtime friend in the Stanley Cup FInal last year — and laughed when he famously dropped the coveted trophy after hoisting it for the first time. Mantha also went up to celebrate the win with NAK in his childhood hometown of Sorel-Tracy Quebec.
"Just having another friendship, it's always fun," Mantha siad, adding, "This summer, I went to his Stanley Cup party and we spent some time together. It was just fun to see him come here."
With each game, Aube-Kubel has become more comfortable and at home in D.C. following a rough go-of-it in Toronto earlier this season, and Mantha has been a big part of that.
"He's one of the best teammates I've had," Aube-Kubel said.