Friendships arise in the strangest places, and that is the case for Washington Capitals prospects Connor Hobbs and Colby Williams.
Both up-and-coming defensemen were at the Washington Capitals’ Development Camp Tuesday, and from looking at the pair, it is easy to see how close their friendship is. The two sat next to each other in the Capitals’ locker room, exchanged jokes and spoke highly of each other.
In fact, when asked what his favorite part of camp was so far, Hobbs was quick to answer: “Seeing my best bud here, Colby Williams,” Hobbs said. “I don’t get to see him all summer… he’s a real good friend of mine and that’s the best part of camp so far for me.”
Hobbs and Williams both hail from Regina, Saskatchewan, and the two formed a strong friendship on and off the ice during their junior hockey days.
Friendship by Chance
Two years older than Hobbs, Williams spent his WHL days with the hometown Regina Pats, filling out the blue line and serving as a puck-mover and complete all-around defenseman. Hobbs was on the same path but began his Junior career with the Medicine Hat Tigers. That changed when he was traded to Regina, though it wasn’t the most thrilling move at the time, according to Williams.
“…We traded a couple of my best buddies for him, so at the start, I was maybe a little upset with him and gave him the evil eye a couple of times,” Williams said with a laugh. “But they placed him right beside me in the locker room and we were D-partners for the rest of the year. He’s an awesome guy and easy to get along with and someone I can call one of my good friends.”
Hobbs and Williams both saw a spike in production when paired together; Williams finished his season with 11 goals and 41 points, and Hobbs registered 16 points in 33 games with his newly-acquired team. They bonded on and off the ice, would eat dinner together after games and play driveway basketball with each other. The duo even lived together for a time.
According to Williams, they have a lot in common and despite a couple of “brotherly fights” here and there, they’d always “push each other” to be better.
“We’re both easy going guys, like to laugh, like to have fun and I think that kind of draws people in,” Williams said. “We like to kind of bring people into our circle and keep expanding.”
It was a coincidence when the two were drafted by the Capitals’ organization in 2015 – Hobbs went in the fifth round and Williams in the sixth.
“I remember being down in the tunnel in Florida after I got drafted and they said, ‘Do you know Colby Williams?’ ‘Yeah, he’s one of my best friends,'” Hobbs said. “It’s pretty cool.”
They were separated at Capitals Development Camp in 2015; their request to share a hotel room was denied, they were placed on different scrimmage teams and their stalls were on different sides of the room. They played together again in Juniors in 2015-16, with Williams serving as the Pats’ captain and Hobbs showing his offensive capabilities. Both returned to Capitals Development Camp in 2016, but weren’t as isolated; in fact, Hobbs and Williams both signed entry-level contracts with Washington on the same day.
This past season, the dynamic defensive duo were split up. Williams, who was 21 at the time, moved up to the next level and spent the season with the Hershey Bears, registering four goals and 16 points, as well as a plus-15 rating through 60 games. Hobbs, still only 19, remained in the WHL with Regina, posting 31 goals and 85 points in a breakout year.
According to Williams, though a long time passed since he last saw Hobbs their friendship never faded.
“I haven’t seen him in over six months, but as soon as I come back, y’know, it’s like a day never lapsed,” Williams said. “It’s really nice to come back and see his face, and hopefully, we’ll play on the same team this year.”
Despite their separation, Hobbs carried the lessons he learned from Williams with him and believes that playing with him elevated his game to a new level.
“The D-coach here in Washington says, ‘A great defenseman makes his partner better,'” Hobbs said. “I can tell you right now that Colby made me better every day and that’s the biggest thing with him.”
Looking to the Future
Hobbs will likely see ice time with Hershey next season, and the two could also see time on the same pairing. Though they are both right-handed defenders, they have tremendous chemistry. Both are effective skaters and know how to move the puck, while also playing with great awareness, on-ice intelligence and aplomb.
“Hopefully, we can play a little bit together in Hershey and bring back that chemistry,” Williams said. “It’s awesome. Coming back into an organization where you don’t know a lot of guys starting off and just to have him here and kind of go through it together makes it so much easier… I kind of have a guy to lean on. [I] lean on him and he can lean on me, so I think it makes it a lot easier.”
As they look toward competing for a full-time job in the NHL, one thing is certain: they’ve formed a bond that goes beyond the game.