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Sabres tab Lemieux with top pick in second round

Saturday, 06.28.2014 / 1:53 PM
Sean McCullen  - NHL.com Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA -- Brendan Lemieux was forced to sit through the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft at Wells Fargo Center on Friday without hearing his name called. It wasn't easy.

After the Buffalo Sabres selected him Saturday morning with the first pick of the second round (No. 31), Lemieux vowed to make the rest of the NHL regret making him wait, particularly some of the teams his father, Claude Lemieux, played for during his 20-plus year career, including the Colorado Avalanche.

"There are a few teams there -- Colorado -- that really stung, but like I said, I'm definitely going to love going in their arenas and making it hard on their guys because they decided to pass me over," said Lemieux, who was born in Denver while his father was playing for the Avalanche. "I'm going to use this as fuel. They gave one of the more fiery guys in the draft, I'd like to say, a lot more fire."

Claude Lemieux described his son, a 6-foot, 206-pound left wing, as a "chip off the old block."

"He plays just the way I did, north-south," he said. "You know, [he's] a good skater. Bang, crash, he goes hard to the net. He scores dirty goals. Just the same game I had."

Claude wasn't concerned his son went No. 31.

"It's just a number. Go on the ice, go show everybody that you should have been a first-round pick," Claude said. "At the end of the day, it's not going to matter whether you're 29th; I mean, I was 26th and there were 21 teams [in 1983]. To me, it doesn't matter. I know for the kid, he wants to go up on the stage, but I think he's having a great day, you know."

He added, "There's pressure on a first-round pick. I didn't have that pressure, but my brother [Jocelyn] lived with that pressure being eighth overall with St. Louis. He talked about that with Brendan this morning, that it was tough to live up to."

Brendan Lemieux hopes to help the Sabres win the Stanley Cup like his father did twice with the New Jersey Devils and once each with the Avalanche and Montreal Canadiens.

"I'm proud of the career that he had and I'm proud of the way that he played. And how hated he was; I just love that about him," Brendan said. "I definitely want to follow in his footsteps. I want to be that guy who can step up in the playoffs and really be that playoff performer, because to me that's what's most important is the postseason. I want to come up big when it counts."

Claude Lemieux, who scored 379 goals and had 407 assists in 1,215 NHL games, sees a lot of himself in his son. He hopes Brendan doesn't draw quite the level of animosity he did from opponents during his career.

"I was pretty hated. As his father, I hope he doesn't get to that level. He likes to play that instigator, in-your-face kind of player," Claude said. "If you look at how the game is played and the Stanley Cup Final, 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."

Lemieux was rated the No. 28 North American skater eligible for this year's draft by NHL Central Scouting. He had 27 goals and 26 assists in 65 games with the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League in 2013-14.

Brendan said he found solace Friday in the fact his father was a second-round pick. He also received encouragement at Wells Fargo Center from Jeremy Roenick and Barrie coach Dale Hawerchuk.

"Even Wayne Gretzky sent my dad a text last night just talking about how he proved a few people wrong in his day and how a few experts thought he would never pan out and look where he ended up," he said.

Claude was not necessarily disappointed that none of his former teams drafted his son.

"Yes, it would have been nice if he got drafted by New Jersey or Colorado or San Jose, but you'd always have to answer the question that your father played here," he said. "I'm happy that he's somewhere neutral and they took him for him."

Brendan was surprised the Sabres drafted him.

"I did meet with Buffalo at the [NHL] Combine. I thought it was my worst interview," he said, laughing. "They weren't easy on me. I guess they liked the way I reacted."

Sabres general manager Tim Murray disagreed.

"I know that he felt that. We didn't feel that. We thought he was outstanding," Murray said. "We made it uncomfortable a little bit. Fairly. We went after him a little bit about his relationship with teammates and different things. I assume that he didn't think Buffalo was going to draft him at all. And that's how some interviews go. He thought it was tough, and we thought it was great. We thought he responded very well to some tough questions."

Defenseman Aaron Ekblad, who also played for Barrie and was drafted by the Florida Panthers with the No. 1 pick, had a few words with Lemieux immediately after the Sabres selected him.

"Aaron knows how frustrated I was last night that I didn't go. It was definitely a goal of mine to go in the first round," he said. "I think he was really excited to see me go early today. Aaron is one of my best friends. He's my roommate. We're like brothers."

Lemieux is hopeful he can make the Sabres for the 2014-15 season, but he acknowledged he needs to work on his quickness this summer.

His dad thinks it's possible.

"It wouldn't surprise me. He's the kind of kid you know he'll catch on the pace," Claude said. "He's young, but they've got a lot of open spots."

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