PHILADELPHIA – Familiar names came off the NHL draft board during both days of the selection process. Sons, cousins, and other relatives of hockey players past were chosen in droves.
Now is the chance for them to make names for themselves.
“It’s his career,” four-time Stanley Cup champion Claude Lemieux said of his son, Brendan, who went to the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday with the first pick of the second round. “It’s time to step outside my shadow and go play and be himself.”
Three other sons were chosen on Saturday during rounds 2-7 by teams for which their fathers played: Boston picked Ryan Donato (Ted) No. 56 in the second round, Carolina selected Josh Wesley (Glen) with the 96th choice in the fourth round, and Daniel Audette (Donald) went to Montreal in the fifth round with pick No. 147.
The most intriguing father-son combo in the two-day draft was perhaps the Kapanens. Their connection goes much deeper than just familial ties, because when Pittsburgh took forward Kasperi Kapanen in the first round on Friday, it gave new Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford the rarest of daily doubles.
The veteran executive also chose Kasperi’s father, Sami, in the fourth round (No. 85) of the 1995 draft when he was the general manager of the-then Hartford Whalers.
“Do you know anyone else who has done that?” Rutherford asked. “We drafted Sami in ’95, and he had his son in ’96. We used to watch him on the ice when he just started skating, and now you end up drafting him.”
Rutherford spoke to Sami Kapanen about his son over the course of the past year. Sami is the majority owner and general manager of KalPa, the Finnish team with which Kasperi played.
“We had a good background check on him,” Rutherford said. “We were surprised he was still there at 22. We had him rated a lot higher.”
Brendan Lemieux knows all about falling and being passed over by teams that his famous father was associated with during his long career. Claude Lemieux starred with the New Jersey Devils and Colorado Avalanche among several NHL stops from 1985-2003.
“I think it is a blessing,” said Claude, who was also a second-round pick. “I have nothing to do with Buffalo. I know pretty much no one on the Buffalo staff except for (coach) Teddy Nolan a little bit.
“Yes, it would’ve been nice if he would’ve gotten drafted by New Jersey or Colorado or San Jose, but he would always have to answer the question of, ‘Your father played here.’ I am happy that he is somewhere neutral, and they took him for him.”
Wayne Gretzky was among many former stars who reached out to the Lemieux family while it was dealing with the disappointment of Brendan failing to meet his goal of being a first-round choice.
“Like Wayne said, ‘It’s just a number. Go prove them wrong and make the best of the opportunity,'” Claude recalled a text saying. “You want to go to a team that really wants you.
“Buffalo had a really high pick and they took a great player. The fact that they took him that early in the second means a lot to him.”
The Devils had the chance to grab Lemieux with the final pick of the first round on Friday, but chose centre John Quenneville instead. Quenneville’s older brother was selected by Columbus in last year’s draft. His uncle by marriage is Boston defenceman Johnny Boychuk, and his second cousin is former player and current Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville.
Ryan MacInnis, the son of Hall of Fame defenceman Al MacInnis, lasted a little longer than expected before he was finally grabbed by the Arizona Coyotes with the No. 43 selection—the 13th pick on Saturday.
Unlike his father, MacInnis is a centre. Al MacInnis is a Stanley Cup champion and seven-time All-Star who spent 23 seasons in the NHL with the St. Louis Blues and Calgary Flames. There was a buzz inside the arena when the Blues got set to make their selection at No. 33, but St. Louis drafted Russian forward Ivan Barbashev.
William Nylander (No. 8 by Toronto) is the son of Michael, who had 209 goals and 679 points in a 15-season NHL career. Brendan Perlini, the No. 12 choice by Arizona, follows father Fred, who played eight NHL games with Toronto after being drafted in 1980.
Dominic Turgeon (No. 63 by Detroit) has a major legacy to live up to as his father, Pierre, was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1987 draft by Buffalo and went on to score 515 goals and record 1,327 points in 1,294 games. He netted at least 30 goals in a season nine times.