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Hurricanes stalwart Wesley sees son carry on legacy

by Kurt Dusterberg

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Josh Wesley has his father's build, cutting an imposing figure on the PNC Arena ice. Even at 18 years old, you might mistake the kid for his father at a glance.

The giveaway is the No. 22 on Josh's Carolina Hurricanes jersey, doubling up on Glen Wesley's No. 2, which hangs in the rafters.

The Hurricanes selected Glen's son, also a defenseman, in the fourth round (No. 96) of the 2014 NHL Draft, creating the potential for a second generation of Wesleys playing defense in Carolina.

But drafting Josh sets up another interesting dynamic: His father is the director of defensemen development for the Hurricanes.

"I have a good relationship with him and he understands and knows that I can be gentle with him and he's going to take it to heart and learn," Glen said during Hurricanes development camp. "It's a unique relationship I have with Josh. He understands that I'm Dad, but he also understands that my job is player development."

If there is any potential for the dual roles to rattle Josh, it's not evident.

"Having him to lean on as a dad, it's really nice for him to be there," he said. "But when it comes to the locker room, he's coach around here."

Father and son conducted themselves like coach and player during on-ice sessions. During one sequence Glen fired a pass to Josh on a net-drive drill. When Josh shoveled his shot into the goaltender, the elder Wesley had no reaction. He simply sent another pass to the slot, to the waiting stick of the next skater.

Glen Wesley spent the final 10 seasons of his 20-season career with Carolina, retiring after the 2007-08 season. While that was happening Josh was growing his game in a part of the country not known for youth hockey. Today he has designs on becoming the first North Carolina-raised player to reach the NHL.

"It's crossed my mind a couple times, but I still have to work to get a spot on the team," said Josh, who played with the Junior Hurricanes program as a kid. "I know it would be an honor to be the first one born and raised in North Carolina."

Josh knows he has a long way to go. As a 16-year-old he joined the United States National Team Development Program, in Ann Arbor, Mich. After one season with the USNTDP Under-17 team, he jumped to the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League last season and his game made a leap forward; in 68 games he had two goals and seven assists.

"He took huge strides from the start of the year to the end of the year in his development," Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis said. "We think there's huge upside to him."

Glen was selected No. 3 in the 1987 draft, and his son was taken in the middle rounds. That would suggest Josh may not have the same potential as his father, but Glen would disagree.

"He understands the game defensively better than I did at 18," he said. "He wants to be tough to play against. He's a character guy who will block shots and stick up for teammates."

Glen Wesley ranks seventh among NHL defensemen in games played (1,457); that's a legacy unlikely to be challenged no matter how much Josh develops.

"That's something we haven't talked about," Glen said. "I just want to see him get better year by year, and that goes with everyone in the organization. It's not an easy mountain to climb, to get to the National Hockey League level. If it takes him three, four, five years, then so be it."

Josh doesn't seem at all concerned about playing in his father's shadow.

"Growing up I had the last name on my back," he said. "I knew everyone was going to be looking at me, comparing me to my dad. I'm a different guy than my dad. He's a very special guy. He played 20 years in the NHL. It's very special to play that long.

"I believe we have the same work ethic. We both bust our tail. He wasn't the highlight player. Early in his career he got the points, but he made the special plays and did the dirty work that no one else really recognized."

Speaking of getting points, Glen said he thinks his son is just scratching the surface of his offensive potential.

"He has an untapped skill set," Glen said. "I don't think he realizes offensively the tools that he has. He has a hard, quick, accurate shot that I don't think he uses enough."

Whatever role he grows into, Josh can anticipate doing it in a Carolina Hurricanes uniform. He has experienced some unforgettable moments thanks to his father's career: Josh was 10 years old when Glen helped Carolina win the Stanley Cup in 2006.

"I just remember my dad raising the Cup and tears streaming down my face," Josh said. "I know how hard he worked to get the Cup. Just to see the smile on his face, that was the most special thing for a son to see."

Now it's time for Glen to see what memories lay ahead for Josh, whether he watches as a dad or a coach.

"Part of it for me is Dad, and it's a fine line there," Glen said. "But I do see the potential in him. He's gotten better every year."

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