MONTREAL – The NHL draft was a family affair, with teams taking chances on hockey genes by selecting the sons and grandsons of former players.
Ray Bourque, Ulf Samuelsson, Mike Foligno, Steve Smith, Ray Ferraro, Brent Ashton, Randy Velischek, Len Barrie, Jan Erixon, Brad Maxwell and Paul MacDermid all saw their sons selected, while the grandsons of former New York Rangers great Andy Bathgate and old-time Boston Bruins goaltender Harvey Bennett also found takers.
The two-day draft began with Friday night’s first round, when John Tavares went first overall to the New York Islanders, and ended with rounds two through seven Saturday.
Bourque, the heart and soul of the Bruins through the 1980s and 1990s, watched his son Ryan get picked in the third round by the New York Rangers, 80th overall. The 18-year-old played in the U.S. development program last season and is set to play for coach Patrick Roy with the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in the fall.
“The Bruins were there with some later picks in the third round, but I knew there was a shot for New York,” said Ryan Bourque, a five-foot-nine centre who was born and raised in the Boston area. “It was a good rivalry there. When he was playing, I was for the Bruins, but obviously, it’s a bit different now.”
Ray Bourque, who still works for the Bruins, said he’ll have to put his loyalties aside if his son ever shows up for a game wearing Rangers blue.
Ryan’s older brother Chris was drafted in the second round in 2004 by Washington but has yet to crack the NHL club. There’s no guarantee for Ryan either, although the Rangers hope his game develops quickly in Quebec.
It is thought that one reason Roy opted not to coach the Colorado Avalanche this season was because his old teammate’s son was about to join the Remparts.
“From what our guys talk about, he’s a hell of a player,” said Rangers president and general manager Glen Sather. “Patrick Roy has got lots of fire and he’s going to push him, so I’m happy that he’s going there.”
The busiest team in keeping draft picks in the family was the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, who took three players with NHL bloodlines – Philip Samuelsson in the second round and both Alex Velischek and 18-year-old Andy Bathgate in the fifth.
Bathgate’s grandfather was mainly a Ranger, but the Hall of Famer was also the scoring leader for the Penguins during their expansion season in 1967-68.
The younger Bathgate took a circuitous route to Pittsburgh. The Pens traded the pick to Toronto in a deal for Hal Gill last year. Toronto sent it to the Rangers, who then traded it back to Pittsburgh.
“We’re drafting the (grandson) not the grandfather,” said Pens GM Ray Shero. “Expectations go along with that. We have to temper that, but we’ll see how it goes in the next few years.”
The six-foot-two Philip Samuelsson is a defenceman like his father, but perhaps without quite the mean streak.
“He doesn’t play as physical as I did,” said Ulf Samuelsson, now an assistant coach for the Phoenix Coyotes. “He watched old tapes of me and he said, ‘You go into a corner and you either killed someone or you missed them – I go in there every time and I take the puck.’ So he’s a little different.”
The younger Samuelsson played an under-17 tournament for Sweden two years ago, but last season, he helped the U.S. win gold at the under-18 world championship in Fargo, N.D. He now intends to play only as an American.
His father is a public enemy for Bruins fans, who recall his knee-on-knee hit that likely ended the career of former Boston star Cam Neely. But now Philip Samuelsson is getting set to play in the fall at Boston College.
“Boston’s a great city,” he said. “There’s some past there, but hopefully I’ll do something good so they’ll remember the Samuelsson name. It’s a lovely city and an excellent campus. I’m looking forward to going there.”
Velischek, a six-foot, 200-pound defenceman, was born in Quebec City while his father played for the defunct Nordiques. He intends to play at Providence College in the fall.
The first son drafted was Tim Erixon, 23rd overall by the Calgary Flames. Carter Ashton, a six-foot-two right winger for Lethbridge of the Western Hockey League, also went in the first round, 29th overall to Tampa Bay.
Landon Ferraro was projected to be a first-rounder, but saw the first 30 picks pass without his name being called. But with the second pick of the second round, the Red Deer Rebels centre was selected by the powerhouse Detroit Red Wings.
“It was disappointing, but I’m in a Red Wings jersey now – it’s a great organization and I’m pretty happy now,” he said.
Marcus Foligno, a left-winger for Sudbury of the Ontario Hockey League, went 104th overall to his father’s old team, the Buffalo Sabres. His older brother Nick already plays for Ottawa.
Defenceman Tyson Barrie of the Kelowna Rockets is the son of former NHL player and current co-owner of the Lightning Len Barrie, but has been saying for weeks that the last team he wanted to draft him was Tampa Bay.
He got his wish, going 64th overall to Colorado.
The Toronto Maple Leafs used their last pick of the day, 188th overall, to take six-foot-five Peterborough Petes defenceman Barron Smith, son of the former Edmonton Oilers rearguard.
“Good bloodlines, good body, good snarl,” said Leafs GM Brian Burke. “He’s got a chance.”
Mac Bennett, a defenceman whose grandfather Harvey tended goal for the Bruins in the 1940s, was taken 79th overall by Montreal. His uncles Harvey Jr. and Curt also played in the NHL.
“They just told me to enjoy the trip,” Mac Bennett said. “They taught me the game and how to jump into the play as a defenceman.
“And my uncle (Curt) said, ‘Whenever you get into a fight, just sucker somebody.”‘
Goaltender Brandon Maxwell, son of the former NHL defenceman Brad, went in the sixth round to Colorado while tough left-winger Lane MacDermid was taken in the fourth round by Boston.