MONTREAL - The NHL's Class of 2006 may not include a crown jewel like Sidney Crosby or Alexander Ovechkin, but it does boast a handful of household names. Time will tell which teams will be willing to roll the dice this weekend in hopes that the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree.
At the top of this year's list is a clan that is quickly proving to be the NHL's royal family-the Staals. In what has become almost annual occurrence, a Staal brother's name will be among the first called at this year's draft. After seeing the Carolina Hurricanes select his brother Eric second overall in 2003 and the Rangers nab his other brother Marc at No. 12 at last year's draft, Jordan Staal now finds himself slated to be a top five pick this weekend at GM Place in Vancouver.
While the Staals have been busy populating the NHL of late, the Thunder Bay family still has a long way to go to catch the Sutter brothers, who sent an unbelievable six brothers to the league. The hockey factory otherwise known as the Sutter household in Viking, AB, also holds an edge over the Staals regarding first-round selections, with four Sutter brothers having been opening round picks.
Canadiens fans will also get to hear a familiar name this weekend with Blake Geoffrion expected to be plucked in the second round according to most projected lists. Geoffrion's last name only scratches the surface as to how much the Canadiens are a part of the 18-year-old forward's puck DNA.
Maple Leafs GM John Ferguson Jr., drafted 247th overall by the Canadiens in 1985, was unable to follow his famous father's footsteps to the NHL.
The 6-foot-1, 190-pounder is not only the grandson of the legendary Bernard "Boom Boom" Geoffrion, but also the son of one-time Habs forward Danny Geoffrion. The youngest Geoffrion's royal hockey bloodlines don't end there, with Blake's great grandfather being none other than Canadiens great Howie Morenz.
As anyone would expect from a descendent of the NHL's slap shot pioneer, Geoffrion is known for the quick release of his hard and accurate shot. Geoffrion's stock has risen from No. 45 to 33 in the final rankings among all North American skaters according to the NHL Central Scouting Bureau.
Should the Canadiens end up drafting Geoffrion this weekend, it wouldn't be the first time the team banked on blood being thicker than water. In addition to the Kostitsyn brothers, Andrei and Sergei drafted in 2003 and 2005, respectively, other family connections have surfaced on draft day over the years. Longtime Hab Rejean Houle's son Jean-Francois was Montreal's fourth round pick in 1993, while former Canadiens tough guy John Ferguson saw his boy John Jr. slip a Canadiens jersey over his head at the 1985 Entry Draft.
One father who will be smiling this weekend is former Sabre and Maple Leaf Mike Foligno, whose son Nick is poised to be a first round selection. Much like his dad who never shied away from getting his nose dirty during his 15-year NHL career, Nick is also an in-your-face type of forward willing to pay the price.
Rounding out the interesting family tree featured in the Class of 2006 is a player bearing the name of a legendary coach known for striking fear in opponents, not to mention his own players. Centerman Viktor Tikhonov, grandson of the Soviet hockey icon of the same name, is ranked 30th among European skaters heading into the draft.
While their famous brothers, fathers and grandfathers will certainly help them stand out on a player spreadsheet come Saturday, living up to their family pedigree will become these potential draft picks' next challenge on their way to the NHL.
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com