Buffalo takes Lemieux to open 2nd day of NHL draft
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — With his family pedigree and stout resume, Brendan Lemieux was sure he was a first-round pick.
One weekend into his NHL career, he already had first taste of disappointment when he was passed over on the first day of the draft. But he had a short wait on Saturday.
The Buffalo Sabres opened the second day of the draft by selecting the forward with the 31st overall pick.
“I expected to be a first-round pick and never even really looked at the second round,” Lemieux said.
The Sabres are glad he was around. Lemieux is the son of former New Jersey Devils star and Stanley Cup champion Claude Lemieux.
Brendan Lemieux, who played for the Barrie Colts in the Ontario Hockey League, enjoyed comparisons to his father. In the weeks leading up to the draft, he said he took it as a compliment when teams said he reminded them of the player who won four Stanley Cups. He wears No. 21 because that was his father’s number while playing junior hockey and he has also inherited the nickname “Pepe” from Claude.
“He’s a leader and he’s a winner,” Claude Lemieux said. “He loves to win. And he plays the game the right way. So I’m sure the fans will identify.”
Brendan Lemieux waited with each pick Friday night to hear his name called. He went home wondering why he would have to return to the Wells Fargo Center for rounds two through seven.
“I was one of those guys who was trying to figure out for a long time where I was going to go,” he said. “Nobody really knew. I had no idea I would drop out of the first round, but I had no idea I was going to get picked this morning. I walked in the arena like 2 minutes before I was going to get picked.”
Lemieux finished tied for third on Barrie with 53 points (27 goals) and led the club with 145 penalty minutes.
Lemieux was one of several offspring of former NHL players available in the draft. The Sabres selected center Sam Reinhart with the second overall pick. He is the son of former NHL player Paul Reinhart, who was selected by the Atlanta Flames in the first round in 1979.
The Florida Panthers selected defenseman Aaron Ekblad with the No. 1 overall pick Friday night. Lemieux and Ekblad were teammates at Barrie and expected to become linked again as first-round picks.
“Aaron knows how crushed I was last night that I didn’t go,” Lemieux said. “It was definitely a goal of mine to go in the first round, but I think he was really excited to see me go early today. Aaron is one of my best friends. He was my roommate. We’re like brothers. I was really excited to see him go first yesterday. He definitely deserves it.”
Claude Lemieux said his son could benefit from forging his own path in Buffalo, instead of following the huge legacy he left behind in New Jersey. Claude also was known as one of the dirtiest agitators in NHL history, the kind of badge he’d like his son to avoid.
“I was pretty hated. As his father, I hope he doesn’t get to that level,” he said. “But he likes to be that instigator, in-your-face kind of player. He looked at how the game is played in the Stanley Cup finals, and the grit of the Los Angeles Kings and some of those players. That’s how you get there. Even in today’s game it still works.”
Nathan Walker became the first Australian to go in the NHL draft when the Washington Capitals selected him in the third round with the 89th overall pick. The 20-year-old Walker moved to the Czech Republic as a kid and spent most of formative hockey years there. But he was the first Aussie in the American Hockey League when he played for the Hershey Bears.
Walker spent time with the Capitals during last year’s training camp on a tryout basis and played in a preseason game.
“Message received from Australian client Nathan Walker, drafted in the 3rd round by the Caps, “We’re going nuts in my house, I’m speechless,”″ tweeted agent Allan Walsh.
There was a run on goalies in the second round after none were selected in the first. Calgary selected Mason McDonald with the 34th overall pick. From there, goalies were the hot pick: Vancouver selected Thatcher Demko with the 36th pick, Carolina selected Alex Nedeljkovic at 37 and Washington drafted Vitek Vancek with the 39th pick. The New York Rangers picked Brandon Halverson with the 59th selection.