On June 30, Alex Limoges found out he would be on the move. Despite coming off his best season in the AHL, leading the Manitoba Moose with 54 points (20 goals, 34 assists), the Winnipeg Jets decided not to qualify the 25-year-old forward, making him an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career.
“I think when it comes down to it they have their views on where they want to take the organization and they didn’t have room left for me. It made things a little more complicated,” Limoges said. “I want to play in the NHL and if they don’t see me doing that I want to go to a team who will give me a chance.”
But he would only be a free agent for 24 hours.
On a Saturday evening in Buffalo, N.Y., the first day of NHL free agency, the Winchester, Va., native got a call from his agent that would change his life.
Limoges, who rocked the red growing up, found out that he was the newest member of the Washington Capitals. He signed a one-year, two-way contract that will most likely see him assigned to the Hershey Bears.
“It’s exciting. I called my family right away. I got them all on FaceTime and said, ‘I’m coming home,” Limoges said. “To see their reaction was priceless too. It means so much to me, but also my family. It was a really special moment.”
A versatile forward who can play center or left wing, Limoges played for the Washington Little Caps and attended numerous Caps games as a fan. He loved watching practice after his own hockey games, and even participated in a “best on best shootout” against other local players during the second intermission of a Capitals home game.
After spending three seasons in the USHL—two with the Tri-City Storm and one with the Waterloo Blackhawks—Limoges committed to Penn State, which was coming off its first Big Ten championship. A large part of his decision was that the campus was only three hours from Winchester.
“My family can catch games and it’s a lot easier to see them rather than planning a trip to the Midwest or further northeast. When I visited I fell in love with the campus and the atmosphere and the facilities speak for themselves. The coaching staff speaks for themselves,” Limoges said. “It was one of those things where as soon as I stepped on, and the more I’m seeing, I just felt like this is home.”
Limoges had a solid first season with the Nittany Lions, racking up 21 points (seven goals, 14 assists) in 37 games. The following year he shot out of a cannon, leading the nation with 50 points (23 goals, 27 assists) and setting a new Penn State record for most points in a single season.
“I think he made a mental change in terms of the consistency that he had to have, entering the zone with the puck, and made a commitment that he’s not going to turn it over,” Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky said. “He is a very, very high IQ player who has the ability to make such smart, subtle plays. … One thing that the more educated hockey fans will see, is that he just wins pucks. He just wins pucks, like it’s amazing.”
Via Penn State Athletics Penn State forward Alex Limoges scores a goal against Notre Dame on Feb 1, 2020 at Pegula Ice Arena.
A big reason for “Limo’s”—as his teammates call him—success that season was his linemates: Evan Barratt and Liam Folkes.
Known as the “BFL” line to Penn State fans, the trio combined for 135 points in the 2018-19 season. All three of them, Gadowsky said, made the same mental adjustment of playing smart in all three zones and being consistent.
Folkes said that playing with Limoges and Barratt was the most fun he’s had playing hockey.
“He’s one of the smartest guys I’ve played with. So all I had to do was get open and he gave me the puck,” Folkes said. “I think the biggest knock on him is his skating. So he had to be stellar in other aspects of the game and I think that’s where the smarts come into play.”
🚨 LIMOOOOOO 🚨
— Penn State Men’s Hockey (@PennStateMHKY) February 22, 2020
Like most young hockey players in the D.C. area, the former Little Cap idolized the two faces of the Capitals’ franchise: Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. Similar to Backstrom, Limoges flew under the radar for the majority of his hockey career despite his high hockey IQ and terrific playmaking ability.
“I always thought Backstrom was somehow underrated throughout the league. Caps fans knew how amazing of a player he was, but he was never really getting the recognition and growing up I kind of resonated with that,” he said. “I think we have a similar game. So that’s why growing up I wanted to emulate that and follow him and watch what he’s doing.”
Along with being a highly skilled player on the ice, Limoges is just as dedicated to his craft off the ice. He was unanimously awarded the “C” on his jersey in his senior year.
“I think he really grew in terms of his consistency. And I think it had to do with the decisions that he made on the ice, but also the commitment he made off of it,” Gadowsky said. “What makes him so, so special is just the genuine, great person he is. And that has never changed.”
Throughout his four years in Happy Valley, Limoges knew he could take his talents to the professional ranks.
“I took stepping stones each year and kept getting closer and closer. And I knew I could play professionally,” Limoges said. “So it was just finding that opportunity and running with it.”
Limoges found that opportunity when he signed a PTO with the San Diego Gulls at the end of his senior year. Joining towards the end of the season, he had 21 points (11 goals, 10 assists) in 23 games. He followed that up with a record-setting season, becoming the first rookie in Gulls history to lead the team in goals (23), and set a new franchise record with 12 power-play goals.
Now in his third full professional season, the Penn State product is joining a Bears team that is coming off its 12th Calder Cup championship. With the majority of the core returning to defend the title, Limoges wants to take his game to another level to make a big impact on a stacked squad in Chocolate Town.
“It’s huge. They did what every team goes into the year wanting to do. They found something that worked, and I think I can add to their team next year and hopefully defend the cup. You always want to come out on top and rarely do you ever do that,” Limoges said. “So the fact that they did and now I can join an already successful team and I hope to learn a lot because they all have great experience on the playoffs and how to be successful in the AHL.”
Limoges will be a full participant in the Caps’ training camp in September. He will be on the same ice as his idols and hopefully live out his dream of playing in the National Hockey League for his hometown club.
By Jacob Cheris