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Graham McPhee looking to follow father's footsteps

by Mike G. Morreale

Every Thursday, will look ahead to the 2016 NHL Draft with an in-depth profile on one of its top prospects.

Graham McPhee is hoping legendary collegiate coach Jerry York can do for him what he did for his father more than three decades ago.

George McPhee, who played seven seasons in the NHL with the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils before beginning a successful managerial career, won the 1982 Hobey Baker Award as college hockey's top player at Bowling Green State University under York.

"It was a great life experience to be able to play for Jerry York because he had his priorities in the right order for a young person in that family was first, education was second and then hockey," McPhee told

Graham McPhee has one goal, three points and eight penalty minutes in 13 games for the NTDP this season. (Photo: Rena Laverty)

Graham is looking forward to playing for York at Boston College beginning in 2016-17. York, who has served as coach for the Eagles the past 21 seasons, signed a contract extension in November 2013 to remain the coach at Boston College through 2019-20.

"I think Graham had heard me say enough good things about [York] over the years that when the opportunity to play for him was there, he jumped at it and we're delighted that [Graham] is going to be in Jerry York's hands for four years of his life," McPhee said.

Graham McPhee is currently playing for USA Hockey's Under-18 National Team Development Program. He knows all about his dad's playing days and how he never backed down from a challenge.

"Dad was definitely a hard-nosed guy," Graham said. "He was really tough and wasn't scared to drop (the gloves) with other guys. But he wants me to play a more skillful game, a smarter game, and not to worry about getting involved in that other stuff. He just wants me to play my game."

The 5-foot-11, 176-pound left wing has one goal, three points and eight penalty minutes in 13 games for the NTDP this season.

"He's a better player than I ever was in terms of skating and skillfulness," George McPhee said. "There was a time when he was caught up in playing too physical and getting worked up in the games. I stressed to him to concentrate on learning how to play the game. Play with pace, know how to pass the puck and be a good teammate; those areas require a lot of work but will pay off if you excel at them."

Graham McPhee, a C-rated prospect on NHL Central Scouting's September players to watch list, is a projected fourth-, fifth-, or sixth-round pick at the 2016 NHL Draft in Buffalo.

"Graham is a solid two-way player with a solid compete level," NHL Central Scouting's Greg Rajanen said. "He battles hard, sees and protects the puck well."

David Gregory, Rajanen's colleague at NHL Central Scouting, has had several viewings of McPhee and likes his upside.

"Every time I see him I think he does more to give me the confidence to say this is the kind of player who will only get better," Gregory said. "You immediately notice his compete level for sure. He goes out and gives you everything he has each shift. Then you start to see the hockey sense and how he's capable of making the right play in almost every zone. Then there's the skill, which might have been unexpected because there were other people on the team that potentially had more of that role on the team. To me, he's a coach's dream in a sense that you can play him a lot of situations and you know what you're going to get out of him from his work ethic.

"He has the potential to play in so many roles because of his hockey sense and good puck skills."

Prior to joining the NTDP, McPhee played for prestigious Shattuck-St. Mary's Prep in Minnesota. He had 28 goals, 58 points and 97 penalty minutes in 58 games for the Under-16 team in 2013-14. McPhee, born in Bethesda, Md., had four goals, 19 points and 52 PIM in 43 games with the U-17 NTDP in 2014-15.

Graham left Maryland when he was 14 to play for Shattuck in Faribault, Minn. George said it wasn't easy leaving him on his own at such a young age, but Graham did it and learned plenty.

"Playing in Shattuck was an awesome experience," he said. "The environment and everyone involved know each other and it was one of the reasons why I made it to where I am today. The coaching staff was top-notch and they really taught me the meaning behind being a pro."

In addition to Boston College, McPhee was also being recruited by the University of Notre Dame and Cornell. His Canadian Hockey League rights are held by the Sarnia Sting, who selected him in the ninth round (No. 161) in the 2014 Ontario Hockey League draft.

"Knowing how terrific a school Boston College is, how the hockey program is nationally ranked every season, and how Graham will be pushed academically, made it an easy decision," George McPhee said.

Before the elder McPhee was named special adviser to the general manager for the New York Islanders in September, he served as general manager of the Washington Capitals for 16 seasons. During that time, Graham had the chance to learn from the likes of Adam Oates and Alex Ovechkin while growing up in Rockville, Md.

"Graham certainly loved playing hockey (growing up) and to see a young boy want to play because he had so much fun was great," McPhee said. "We always knew what Graham wanted because if he wasn't at a rink, we could hear him shooting pucks and stickhandling in the garage or basement. When we would return home three hours after playing six or seven games at a two-day tournament, he'd get out of the car and before we would even get into the house, he'd pick up a stick and start shooting in the driveway."

Graham did play other sports, including football, baseball, soccer and lacrosse. It was something George felt was important since it allowed him to create new friendships and relationships. Playing hockey was his passion, however, and George is glad he's taking advantage of his time in the USNTDP.

"The program is hard on these kids; as 16-year-olds they don't win a lot (in the United States Hockey League) against older players, and they get pushed around and are challenged, but they learn valuable lessons," McPhee said. "No matter how much ice time you receive, you always have to play with the same intensity each shift. You need to be a reliable player. This year, Graham's team is winning a little more and you can see the skill development beginning to blossom.

"It's a heck of a program and I think these kids really represent their country well."


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