The scouting process can be complex. Thousands of miles are travelled and countless nights are spent in cold rinks spanning the globe searching for the next critical piece in a puzzle that hopefully will develop into a Stanley Cup winning masterpiece. As notepads begin to fill up analyzing technical aspects of players’ games, intangible qualities that each possess and the statistical trends of the young competitors, there are certainly some outlaying factors that won’t hurt a player’s chances of donning an NHL jersey either. The 2014 NHL Draft class is littered with NHL family ties and hockey bloodlines. When it comes to talking hockey bloodlines, look no further than the Youngblood series to link the fathers, uncles and cousins to our future hockey talents.
Starting at the top of the draft, Sam Reinhart from the Kootenay Ice may have the most decorated family tree with father, Paul, playing over 700 NHL games spanning 11 seasons for two franchises (Atlanta Flames/Calgary Flames and the Vancouver Canucks). Sam’s older brothers Max and Griffin both found their way onto NHL clubs. The Calgary Flames used their 64th selection in 2010 to pick up Max Reinhart, who also competed for the Kootenay Ice. After two full AHL seasons in Abbotsford, the eldest draftee is closing in on full time NHL action. In 2012, Garth Snow of the New York Islanders selected Griffin Reinhart with the 4th overall pick, adding a stabilizing defensive prospect with promising upside. Coming off a WHL Championship MVP performance, Griffin Reinhart captained his Edmonton Oil Kings to a CHL Memorial Cup Championship as well and looked every bit the stud defenseman that New York believed he could be. Projected as a top three player, Sam Reinhart stands a great chance of being the highest drafted Reinhart family member. The Reinharts appear to be a bloodline ready to take the NHL by storm.
There has been no shortage of discussion about talented Swede William Nylander and his dazzling skill set. Nylander is the next big ticket prospect with family ties to the NHL after his father Michael was drafted by the Hartford Whalers and played 967 regular season and playoff games. During his NHL journey, Michael Nylander skated for Hartford, Calgary, Tampa Bay, Chicago, Washington, Boston and the New York Rangers before retiring with the Capitals and returning to Sweden to play on home soil. Finishing with 221 goals and over 700 points, Nylander had an exceptional NHL career and William has certainly taken notice. Much debate surrounds the youthful William Nylander as to where he will land come draft day but his offensive talent, hunger for scoring and game breaking abilities are arguably unmatched in this draft class. With the Flames holding onto the 4th overall selection, William Nylander could end up donning the same NHL jersey that his father once wore for four of his 15 seasons.
After playing with his speedster father Sami Kapanen in Finland’s top professional league, Kasperi is ready to follow in his father’s path and take his game to the National Hockey League. Like his dad, Kasperi is a skilled forward who flashes tremendous playmaking abilities showing excellent creativity and vision. Playing with the Hartford Whalers, Carolina Hurricanes and Philadelphia Flyers, Kapanen had a long NHL career that lasted a dozen years and witnessed him tally 202 goals and 493 points. The father-son duo ended their 2013-14 season with KalPa with seven goals each but it was Kasperi who bested his old man’s 13 points after finishing with 14 of his own in his first full Liiga season. With aspirations to reach the NHL, Kasperi is expected to be taken in the opening round which should give him bragging rights after the Kapanen elder statesman was selected 87th overall 19 years ago by the Hartford Whalers. In less than two weeks’ time, Kasperi may hold the superior draft pedigree but as the owner of the KalPa franchise Sami remains the boss both on and off the ice and it will be him who will be signing his son’s pay cheques.
One of the most talked about NHL sons heading towards the 2014 NHL Draft is Barrie Colts’ forward Brendan Lemieux, who not only shares the last name with his father Claude Lemieux but also a similar agitating style of play. With Brendan projected as a late 1st or early 2nd round selection, he has a chance to be drafted higher than Claude was back in 1983 when the Montreal Canadiens selected him 26th overall in the second round. Montreal is slated to pick in that exact 26th slot so the stage is set to repeat with a potential Lemieux selection 31 years later. In his playing days, Claude Lemieux was an NHL journey man and an ultra-competitive “winner” taking home an amazing four Stanley Cup Championships in a career that expanded two decades. Skating for five franchises that included Montreal, New Jersey, Colorado, Phoenix and Dallas, Claude epitomized the antagonistic skilled forward and much of his personal and team successes can be attributed to his effective agitating playing style. He scored 449 goals, 944 points and accumulated 2306 penalty minutes over 1449 games. Lemieux earned a living being a pest and spent much of his time on the ice working in the trenches. With a father as a Conn Smythe Trophy winner, Brendan’s natural tendencies are to resemble his playing style and it is a true compliment to his biggest supporter. With a projectable frame and a toolbox full of offensive weaponry, Brendan Lemieux’s future looks bright and his ability to make an impact in a number of ways will definitely be coveted early in the draft.
Al MacInnis was a seven time NHL All-Star who owned a legendary and feared slap shot. Ryan MacInnis didn’t inherit his father’s defensive position or his booming shot but his competitiveness and hockey sense certainly don’t fall too far from the family tree. Playing in the same major junior town as his old man, Ryan MacInnis showed promising progression in his first OHL season with the Kitchener Rangers. With the final months coming to a close, MacInnis was earning top line minutes and leaned on heavily allowing him to gain confidence with each successful challenge met. Blessed with good vision and a great set of mitts, especially in tight quarters, Ryan MacInnis projected to be a second round selection. He remains a prospect with a promising upside and a long-range development curve but the end result could be very rewarding for the team that decides to draft him. His father’s years of NHL service that included stops in two cities (Calgary and St. Louis) will surely help to prepare Ryan for the next level and if he can assemble any sort of similar career path as his old man, he (and his NHL team) would be ecstatic.
The next three draft eligible prospects all share a similar bloodlines from the Buffalo Sabres organization. Sherbrooke’s leading scorer Daniel Audette’s father, Donald, carved out a long and prosperous NHL career as an undersized forward, exactly the path that his son is looking to replicate. With ties to Montreal as an amateur scout, Donald Audette knows his sons game better than anyone so keep a close eye on the Canadiens’ draft board.
Next in line with connections is big Portland Winterhawks centerman Dominic Turgeon, the son of Buffalo fan favourite Pierre Turgeon and nephew of former 2nd overall pick Sylvain Turgeon. Dominic is projected as a middle-to-late round prospect but scouts love his intelligence, possession skills, size and his attention to both ends of the rink.
Lastly, Luc Snuggerud recently took home the Reed Larson award as Minnesota’s top defenseman and the young rearguard also calls former Sabres winger Dave Snuggerud uncle. Dave played four season in the NHL for Buffalo, San Jose and Philadelphia before retiring. Luc is an extremely gifted offensive defenseman who displays a great feel for defending and if everything goes as anticipated, he should hear his named called inside the opening three rounds.
Other names to note with family ties include Josh Wesley (defenseman and son of former NHL stalwart Glen Wesley), Ryan Donato (promising offensive forward and son of former Bruins forward Ted Donato), Ivan Nikolishin (undersized offensive winger and son of former Capitals forward Andrei Nikolishin), Nick Ritchie (burly skilled winger and brother of Dallas Stars prospect forward Brett Ritchie), Nick Schmaltz (dazzling skilled forward and brother of St. Louis Blues prospect defenseman Jordan Schmaltz), Alex Peters (defensive stud and brother of Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Justin Peters), Anton Karlsson (agitating forward and brother of Norris Trophy winning Erik Karlsson) and John Quenneville (intelligent two-way forward, cousin of Chicago Blackhawks’ coach Joel Quenneville, nephew of Boston Bruins Johnny Boychuk and brother of Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Peter Quenneville). In addition, speedster and projected Top 15 pick Nikolaj Ehlers’ father was drafted in 1984 by the New York Rangers in the 9th round but choose to play out a successful career in Europe’s top professional leagues. Fred Perlini, father of sniper Brendan Perlini, was an 8th round selection of the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1980 and skated in eight NHL games with the big club. With the Maple Leafs slated to pick 8th overall, the NHL landscape could possibly see another Perlini wearing the blue and white.
Of course, there are no guarantees that hockey bloodlines dictate success but many of the traits, characteristics and values of former NHL players do have a direct impact on their family members and that can be enough of an influence to give these prospects an edge. Playing in the shadows of accomplished NHL battle-tested family members can be a daunting task for these young developing hockey talents so it’s important to understand that the sons and nephews of NHL bloodlines are simply looking to sculpt their own hockey legacies rather than attempting to duplicate their families’ successes. The triumphs of any prospering athlete are best celebrated with families and there will be plenty celebrating to come for these prospects come June 27th and 28th in Philadelphia.
Follow @RossyYoungblood on Twitter for prospect and NHLDraft updates