Commentary

When it comes to the draft, it's all relative

Updated: June 21, 2008, 6:57 PM ET
By Scott Burnside | ESPN.com

OTTAWA -- Brothers, sons, cousins, nephews -- it's always interesting to track the lineage of players taken in the NHL draft.

Some GMs put stock in the blood connections, others not so much.

"I don't read much into it," offered Islanders GM Garth Snow after he selected David Toews, the younger brother of Chicago star Jonathan Toews, with the 66th overall pick Saturday.

"I was a professional athlete and my brothers weren't very good athletes," Snow added, guaranteeing an interesting dinner discussion the next time the Snow clan gathers.

Toews is following his brother's footsteps, but to a lesser degree. David Toews attended hockey prep school Shattuck-St. Mary's in Faribault, Minn., and is expected to play at his older brother's alma mater, the University of North Dakota, this season. Although he put up big numbers at Shattuck (181 points in two years), he isn't expected to be the offensive force his brother was and is.

As expected, the final member of the ubiquitous Staal clan from Thunder Bay, Ontario, Jared, joined the NHL family on Saturday when Phoenix made him the 49th pick. Staal did not attend the draft but at 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, he offers size up front for a Phoenix team that is committed to a youth movement. Staal, who played for Sudbury of the OHL last season, is a couple of years away from being able to contribute.

Sometimes all that connects a father to a son or brother to brother, etc., is the name on the jersey.

Take Philip McRae, a talented winger who was selected by the St. Louis Blues, the same team for whom his father, Basil, both played and now works for as a scout. As Basil McRae noted, if hockey is 50 percent mental and 50 percent being mental, he had the being mental part down. His son, on the other hand, has the mental quotient.

Philip, a 6-foot-2 center, said he's seen highlights of his dad's career on YouTube.

"Pretty much all his highlights are fights," Philip McRae said. "Hopefully I won't be the same type of player he was or else I'll be getting beat up a lot."

Among the other familial connections the 2008 draft brought was the acquisition of Anton Gustafsson by the Washington Capitals with the 21st pick. Gustafsson is the son of former Cap Bengt-Ake Gustafsson, who played 629 games in Washington in the 1980s.

Colin Wilson, son of former NHLer and Canadian Olympian Carey Wilson, went to Nashville with the seventh pick. The talented forward wears No. 33, the same number as his dad.

Viktor Tikhonov, grandson of legendary Soviet national team coach Viktor Tikhonov, went to Phoenix with the 28th pick. He is expected to make the team out of training camp this fall.

Maxime Sauve, selected by Boston with the 47th overall pick, has dual blood connections. His father, J.F. Sauve, played 290 NHL games, and his uncle, Bob Sauve, was a Vezina Trophy-winning netminder who played 13 NHL seasons.

The Bruins also selected Jamie Arniel, whose uncle is former NHLer Scott Arniel, now the head coach of the AHL's Manitoba Moose.

Phoenix was at it again Saturday with the 159th overall pick, taking forward Brett Hextall, the son of longtime NHL netminder Ron Hextall, who is currently the assistant GM of the L.A. Kings.


Anaheim GM Brian Burke delayed his deadline for Scott Niedermayer to announce his intentions regarding returning to hockey next season until Monday. Niedermayer and his wife were expecting their fourth child during the weekend.


Colorado Avalanche GM Francois Giguere isn't likely to find out about captain Joe Sakic's intentions regarding playing next year until after July 1. That's not necessarily a good thing for Giguere, who will need to fill an offensive hole if Sakic does retire. Sakic will be an unrestricted free agent July 1, but won't play anywhere but Colorado. But with a thin pool of offensive players set to go on the market, Giguere can't really afford to miss out on signing a player.


The Minnesota Wild were among the teams in the hunt for Olli Jokinen, who went to Phoenix. So one wonders if that means the pressure is ramped up for GM Doug Risebrough to come up with a deal for potential unrestricted free agent Brian Rolston. The hard-shooting veteran told the Minneapolis Star Tribune's Mike Russo that the team's offer was "decent," but they weren't there yet.

On Saturday, Risebrough said he's doing his best.

"I've had contract discussions with Rolston," he said. "We're all finding out right now that it seems to be hard to sign players. And that's probably because the cap has gone up and the expectations have gone up. It seems that everybody is saying, 'I want a one-way ticket to the market.' And Rolston is no different. We'll have to wait and see. As we get closer to the date, it might change."

Risebrough has yet to talk to forward Pavol Demitra, who also can become an unrestricted free agent, but it's believed he's headed out of Minnesota, likely to Vancouver.

"Demitra, I haven't talked to," Risebrough said. "I believe there will be a conversation there just because I need to feel out what his expectations are. It's not prudent for the manager to assume."


This gem from former Calgary GM Craig Button: Eight players who were selected with the last pick in the entry draft went on to play in the NHL, including current broadcast analyst Andy Brickley. So there's promise for Detroit pick Jesper Samuelsson.

Scott Burnside is the NHL writer for ESPN.com.

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