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Like father, like son

by Tyson Giuriato / Vancouver Canucks

Cassels, the next generation.

From 1999 to 2002, Andrew Cassels was a productive top six centreman for the Vancouver Canucks, racking up 168 points in 198 games during in his time in Vancouver. Now the Canucks have another generation of the Cassels family in the organization after selecting Cole Cassels, son of Andrew, in the third round, 85th overall at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.

The elder Cassels not only played the role of dad, but was also a mentor to his son while the family moved around North America so Andrew could continue his hockey career which spanned 1,015 games over 17 seasons.

“It was great,” said Cole, who was born in Harftord and grew up in Calgary, Vancouver, Columbus, Washington D.C. and Oakville, Ontario. “He taught me almost everything I know about the game and I was very fortunate to have him as a mentor.”

Cassels spent three years living in Vancouver while his father wore No. 25 for the Canucks. He doesn’t remember all of his time spent in the city, but recalls being around the team, which at the time featured players like Markus Naslund, Todd Bertuzzi and the Sedins.

“I remember running around the room when I was five or six, just being the little guy, probably being a pest.”

If Cassels ever makes the big club it won’t be the first time he has walked out of the Canucks dressing room, down the tunnel and onto the Rogers Arena ice surface in front of over 18,000 fans. The 6-foot, 180-pounder accompanied the Canucks onto the ice and stood at the blue line during the national anthems twice as a kid, once standing beside Naslund, while the other time beside his father.

Twelve years later and Cassels again stepped onto the ice at Rogers Arena, this time for Canucks Prospects Development Camp in July.

Things are bit different this time around as the 18-year-old is no longer “the little guy,” he’s a two-way centreman that has spent the last two seasons with the Ontario Hockey League’s Oshawa Generals. With top prospect Boone Jenner and Scott Laughton also playing the middle ice position, Cassels was forced into the third line center job his first two seasons of junior.

Now, with Jenner eligible to turn pro and Laughton most likely to stick with the Philadelphia Flyers, Cassels looks to be poised to take over the number one center job.

“One of the things we talked about when we put our list together for the draft was what kind of opportunity the player will get next year,” said Dave Gagner, director of player development for the Canucks. “For Cole, that is something that helped his ratings with us because we could see he has the skill, the talent and the hockey sense but we also recognized that he could be the first line center there next year, so his opportunity to succeed is going to be very good. Once he gets those competitive juices flowing with the new role he will be in, I think we will see good results from him.”

Needless to say, Cassels is looking forward to the added responsibilities.

“I accepted that role as the third line center, but I think everybody is looking for more opportunity and it’s looking like next year there will be one and hopefully I can take advantage of that and showcase my offensive side of the game.”

Being in a bottom six role for his first two seasons in junior will benefit Cassels when he turns pro. Instead of being asked to produce offense for his entire junior career and having to work on his defensive game at the pro level, the 16th overall pick in the 2011 OHL Priority Selection will already have advanced knowledge of the defensive zone.

“I think it will help me in the long run. Being in that role helped me with my two-way game, which you need to play at the next level.”

It doesn’t hurt that Cassels’ thinks the game at an elite level. Just by watching him in scrimmages at Canucks Prospects Camp you can tell his hockey sense is his biggest strength, something he agrees with.

“Just kind of knowing what’s going to happen and where to be, I think that turns into my playmaking ability by seeing one step ahead. Obviously my teammates do a good job of getting open and I usually can get lucky enough to put the puck on their stick.”

As for how he got such good hockey IQ, all one has to do it is look at the Cassels family tree.

“Watching and being around the game, being around the morning skates with my dad helped and it comes from watching my dad as well, he was a pretty heady hockey player and I think I was lucky enough to inherit some of his genes.”

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