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DeAngelo, Kapanen bring local flavor to NHL Draft

by Sean McCullen

PHILADELPHIA -- The 2014 NHL Draft would have been a memorable experience for Anthony DeAngelo and Kasperi Kapanen no matter where it was held. The fact that it's at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia makes the event even more special for the two top prospects.

DeAngelo, a 5-foot-10, 170-pound defenseman, grew up in Sewell, N.J., a 25-minute drive from Philadelphia. Kapanen, a 5-foot-11, 180-pound forward, lived in nearby Shamong, N.J., between the ages of 7 and 12 when his father, Sami, played for the Philadelphia Flyers.

DeAngelo, who had 15 goals and 56 assists in 51 games for the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League this season, will have about 150 family members and friends in attendance for the first round of the draft Friday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN, RDS).

"This is fun," DeAngelo said Thursday during a media session at The National Constitution Center that featured 12 of the top prospects. "Sometimes I wish maybe it was in a different [city]. There's going to be so many people there [Friday], and you never know what's going to happen. It would kind of [stink] if things didn't go as planned. But it's still nice because then everybody gets to come, the whole family. If it was somewhere far it would just be the immediate family and that would be it."

Kapanen, who is rated the No. 1 European skater available in the draft by NHL Central Scouting, feels at ease being back in Philadelphia despite lofty expectations for where he'll be selected.

"It brings back emotions, you know, kind of knowing the neighborhood, knowing people here, just seeing your friends," he said. "It's probably easier for me than some other guys; I'm really just observing everything and right now having a good time."

Kapanen played the past two seasons with his father for KalPa in Liiga, the top professional league in Finland; he had seven goals and seven assists in 47 games in 2013-14. He said he hasn't really given much thought to which team will draft him and knows it's out of his control now.

"Playing somewhere where my father has played would be pretty special; that's unique," said Kapanen, who has lived in Finland since 2008, when his father completed his final NHL season. "I don't know where I'm going to go and I don't think I want to know. I'm just going to go there, sit down, enjoy the night and have a good moment with my family. And let's see what happens after that."

Sami Kapanen had 44 goals and 66 assists in 311 games for the Flyers from 2003-08 after spending the first eight seasons of his NHL career with the Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes franchise.

"I think Philadelphia will always have a special place in my heart; the way this city is passionate about sport, how I enjoyed playing over here and being a part of a great organization," Sami Kapanen said. "And now that the draft for Kasperi is here, he got so excited about it right away. I think he feels this is his hometown for him and he's so happy to be back here."

Though he enjoyed his time in Philadelphia, Sami Kapanen said there would be some drawbacks to his son being drafted by the Flyers or Hurricanes.

"I think it would be nice, but at the same time it's almost maybe better that he wouldn't be the same city, same team, so it will be a plain table for him and he can create his own career and not to be put 1-on-1 against me, the kind of player I was," he said. "I think he's a totally different kind of player."

DeAngelo, No. 14 among North American skaters on Central Scouting's final ranking, said his game most closely resembles that of defenseman Dan Boyle, whose rights were traded to the New York Islanders earlier this month after six seasons with the San Jose Sharks.

Though he grew up a Flyers fan rooting for Jeremy Roenick, Peter Forsberg, Chris Pronger and Claude Giroux, DeAngelo said it's a no-brainer what he would want to happen if it comes down to the final pick of the first round and his name still hasn't been called.

"Let's get drafted by the Devils at No. 30," the 18-year-old said.

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