Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of prospect profiles leading into the NHL draft Friday and Saturday.
This edition of the NHL Draft will include the sons of Claude Lemieux and Al MacInnis. The offspring of Sami Kapanen and Michael Nylander could both go in the top 10 picks. And, of course, the son of longtime NHL defenseman Paul Reinhart – Kootenay center Sam Reinhart – could be the Sabres’ choice at No. 2.
Longtime fans of the Sabres will recognize several other names with lineage dating to the past in Buffalo. The sons of Pierre Turgeon and Donald Audette and the nephew of Dave Snuggerud all attended last month’s NHL Scouting Combine outside Toronto and figure to be mid-round picks.
Here’s a look at their prospects heading into draft weekend in Philadelphia:
The 6-foot-1¾, 198-pound Turgeon has played center for Portland in the Western Hockey League and is the 98th-ranked North American skater according to NHL Central Scouting. He’s lived in Denver since age 9, when Pierre Turgeon was wrapping up his 20-season NHL career with the Colorado Avalanche, which ended in 2007.
Last season, he was teammates with No. 4 overall pick Seth Jones, the top defenseman taken in the draft (by Nashville).
Turgeon had just three goals and 11 points in his first 31 games this year but finished the season with 10 goals and 31 points in 65 games and had a plus-18 rating.
“My confidence was a big thing in the second half of my season. I felt I really changed my game some, found a role,” he said. “I’m a two-way forward. I can produce offense but I’m also going to be a very strong defensive player. I can score the goals but I can be very strong in my own zone.”
Pierre Turgeon, of course, was the No. 1 overall pick by the Sabres in 1987. He had a 106-point season for the Sabres in 1989-90 and a career-high 132-point campaign for the New York Islanders in 1992-93. After collecting 515 goals and 1,327 points in his career for six teams, he’s a fringe Hall of Fame candidate.
“He was a big body and he loved to protect the puck down low,” Dominic Turgeon said. “That’s what I do all the time in the offensive zone, really use my body to my advantage and get the puck to the net. He was a big guy in hockey which is an honor. I love that he’s my father. He’s a big role model for me.”
Audette is a 5-8, 175-pound winger who is ranked 75th among North American skaters. He had 21 goals and 55 assists in 68 games this season for Sherbrooke of the Quebec League, and those numbers match his self-assessment of being a “skilled passing forward.”
His size is reminscent of his father, who was just 5-8 and had to wait until the ninth round of the 1989 draft – even though he was coming off a 76-goal, 161-point season at Laval.
“On his draft day when he was 19 years old, he didn’t get drafted until the last round,” Daniel Audette said. “I guess he was getting mad and throwing chairs in the back of the rink. He really wanted to get drafted.
“He wasn’t the biggest guy and back then size was really important. He was motivated, worked harder than anyone else and that’s why he had a long career.”
Daniel Audette mostly remembers hanging around the Montreal Canadiens during the end of his father’s career, and his favorite player was former Habs goaltender Jose Theodore. Donald Audette, in fact, now works as a scout for the Canadiens.
“What I remember most is that it looks like an amazing lifestyle, something I wanted to do,” Daniel Audette said. “”I was in the room with my dad and seeing the lifestyle looked like a lot of fun.”
Snuggerud is a 6-0, 180-pound defenseman who is the 42nd-ranked North American skater. He’s likely to be a third-round pick with an outside shot of going late in the second round.
This season he won the Reed Larson Award, named in honor of the former NHL defenseman and given to the top high school blueliner in Minnesota. Snuggerud had nine goals and 37 assists in 28 games while captaining Eden Prairie High to its first state tournament berth since 2011.
“The last couple years, I’ve really been working hard and making major strides,” Snuggerud said. “It’s nice knowing I’ve accomplished some things but it also shows me I can raise my expectations and point them at bigger and better things.”
Snuggerud’s uncle played for the Sabres from 1989-92, posting career highs of 14 goals and 30 points in his rookie season of 1989-90. He coached his nephew during some youth days and is currently a headmaster and coach at a Minnesota high school for hockey prospects.
“He knows what it takes to play in the NHL,” Luc Snuggerud said. “As you get higher and higher up, everyone is going to have the skill. It’s about heart and hard work that separates players. So I try to take that in, work as hard as I can, get out of the comfort zones so it was fun.
Snuggerud is set to play next year at Nebraska-Omaha under coach Dean Blaise, the former North Dakota and U.S. World Junior head man. His Minnesota high school background, which included a berth in the state tournament in St. Paul at the home of the Wild, is a huge boost in the eyes of NHL scouts.
“The whole goal was making it to the state tournament in front of 19,000 fans,” he said. “There’s nothing like it. I got to experience it and it’s a huge adrenalin rush going out there.”
Another name with Sabres connections who did not attend the combine is forward Jack Ramsey, son of longtime Sabres defenseman Mike Ramsey.
Jack Ramsey, who is 6-2, 185, had nine goals and 25 points in 57 games for Penticton of the British Columbia Junior A league. He’s ranked 181st by Central Scouting and is heading to the University of Minnesota for the 2015-16 season.
Next: Sam Bennett