PHILADELPHIA – Their last names follow them to every rink: Lemieux, MacInnis, Turgeon.
It’s a blessing and a burden for nine sons of former NHL players who are all expected to be taken in the first four rounds of the draft this weekend. There’s Sam Reinhart, son of Paul; William Nylander, son of Michael; Kasperi Kapanen, son of Sami; Ryan MacInnis, son of Al; Brendan Lemieux, son of Claude; Ryan Donato, son of Ted; Daniel Audette, son of Donald; Dominic Turgeon, son of Pierre; and Josh Wesley, son of Glen.
“It’s just awesome to see that other players’ sons are being able to make it because there’s a little bit of pressure that comes with playing with the name on your back,” Brendan Lemieux said. “And it’s not very easy, especially when you’re playing minor hockey, to do it when your dad’s there and people see you different just because of who your dad is.”
So many of these young men shared similar experiences along the way, getting a taste of the NHL lifestyle at practice rinks and in locker-rooms.
“I felt like I was kind of born into hockey with my dad,” Dominic Turgeon said. “At that very young age I promised myself, that’s what I want to do with my life.”
Along the way, these nine prospects took varying paths. Some followed in their father’s footsteps as closely as possible, while others wanted to do their own thing.
“It’s just the father-son relationship: that DNA’s there,” NHL Central Scouting director Dan Marr said. “Sometimes they play opposite styles: Tie and Max Domi, Ryan and Al (MacInnis).”
Sam Reinhart, who’s expected to be a top-five pick in Friday night’s first round, is a centre whereas his father spent 10 NHL seasons as a defenceman. Sam was born six years after Paul retired and didn’t really model his game after him as much as naturally pick up some tendencies.
“My dad never really taught me a skating side of the game, and I think that’s just kind of the way I picked it up and I hear it has been similar to his,” Reinhart said. “I’ll take that.”
Kasperi Kapanen, who spent the first 12 years of his life in North America as Sami played for the Carolina Hurricanes and Philadelphia Flyers, considers his dad the biggest influence on his hockey career as his teacher, mentor, trainer and No. 1 fan all at the same time. At one point, Sami and Kasperi were teammates for KalPa Kuopio in Finland, which made him think twice.
“It’s kind of weird if he has the puck on the ice and you’re with him and yell out, ‘Dad!'” he said. “And you think about it for a second like, ‘What’s going on?'”
Kapanen’s goal is to become at least as good a pro as his dad, if not better.
That’s a high bar for Ryan MacInnis, a centre who doesn’t have the blistering shot his dad, a Hall of Fame defenceman. Marr told MacInnis to expect questions from interviewing teams about how fast he can shoot.
“I have no idea,” said MacInnis, who hasn’t tested his shot with a radar gun.
Ryan MacInnis does have some of his dad in him, or at least the defensive awareness. And scouts watching notice the bloodline.
“When you watch him wind up, he has a very similar style of wind-up,” said Ross MacLean of the scouting service ISS Hockey. “The mechanical structure of it is very, very similar. It’s certainly nowhere near the velocity or the heaviness that his father had, but that might come as he continues to mature.”
William Nylander, who played youth hockey in the United States before his family moved back to Sweden, will likely need time to mature. He was just five or six years old when Michael played for the Washington Capitals and invited Nicklas Backstrom over to their house.
Lemieux still has good relationships with some of Claude’s former teammates, including now-Colorado Avalanche vice-president Joe Sakic and coach Patrick Roy. When Brendan met with the Avalanche, Roy kept quiet and let the rest of his staff do the talking.
The pre-draft interview that surprised Lemieux was with the Detroit Red Wings, who his father spent years tormenting as an agitator extraordinaire. Lemieux didn’t think it would be a legitimate interview, especially with one of Claude’s biggest rivals, Kris Draper, in the room.
“I thought they were going to walk in, make a few jokes,” Lemieux said. “They were extremely professional, they barely brought it up. I tried to joke about it, they weren’t even budging. They were extremely serious. I was really impressed. I’d have no problem playing in Detroit after that interview, for sure.”
That’s if the Red Wings want a carbon copy of Claude Lemieux. Brendan knows the game has changed since his father sunk the Stanley Cup to the bottom of the family’s pool in 2000 but doesn’t want to deviate much from how Claude played.
“I think I can still bring that maybe a little bit of old-school sandpaper to a power-forward type role,” said Lemieux, who admires Dallas Stars pest Antoine Roussel’s game. “I think a lot of teams are looking for that edge.”
Ryan Donato hopes a team is looking for a two-way centre in the vein of Jonathan Toews or Patrice Bergeron. Ted Donato, who will be his son’s coach at Harvard next season, mentored Bergeron during his final season with the Boston Bruins, which gave his son someone else to model practice habits on.
As far as off-ice habits, Ryan might want to be like his dad.
“One of my favourite (stories) was when Ray Bourque got up to go to the bathroom, I guess he took his shoes off for a second and my dad got two lobsters and put them in his shoes and he came back and he put his feet in his shoes and there were lobsters in there,” Donato said.
Daniel Audette, more of a passer than Donald, who scored 260 goals in his NHL career, has a favourite story about his dad that he’ll probably tell friends this weekend.
“On his draft day when he was 19 years old, he didn’t get drafted—he was in the last rounds and he was getting mad,” Daniel recalled. “He was throwing chairs in the back of the rink. He really wanted to get drafted, I guess.”
Finally the Buffalo Sabres took Donald in the ninth round in 1989. Daniel won’t have to wait nearly as long, as he’s projected to go in the first three rounds.
The same goes for Dominic Turgeon, who wants nothing more than to be just like Pierre.
“He loves to protect the puck down low,” Turgeon said. “That’s what I do all the time in the offensive zone, really use my body to my advantage and drive the puck to the net.”
But with the name Turgeon comes expectations. It’s true for all nine prospects, whether they like it or not.
Still, there are plenty of benefits, like making scouts look twice because of the pedigree. When they do, more often than not they can tell there’s some extra polish.
“They grew up around the game,” Marr said. “I think that’s the advantage that they have. Ryan MacInnis, he’s a professional athlete at 17 years of age, but his hockey sense and his hockey IQ, you can see that’s what he’s got from his dad, the way he plays the game.”
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