MONTREAL -- On the second day of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, the Pittsburgh Penguins went with the patriarchal technique. Three of Pittsburgh’s six day-two selections come from a professional hockey lineage.
Defensemen Philip Samuelsson
(father, Ulf Samuelsson) and Alex Velischek
(father, Randy Velischek) and center Andy Bathgate (grandfather, Andy Bathgate) have NHL history and blood in their genetic code.
The Penguins started the day by drafting Samuelsson, whose father Ulf won Stanley Cup championships with Pittsburgh in 1991 and ’92 and is still a fan favorite to this day, with their second-round pick (61st overall).
|Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images |
“I wasn’t expecting (to get drafted) this early,” said the younger Samuelsson, who committed to play collegiate hockey at Boston College next season. ‘It's an honor to be picked by the Stanley Cup champions. I can't really describe it. It hasn't sunk in yet."
Samuelsson has had the benefit of learning from his father Ulf, who played 1,080 NHL games with five different teams, including Pittsburgh. Ulf, who was drafted in the fourth round (67th overall) in 1982, stood proudly by his son in the Bell Centre.
"It's exciting,” Ulf said. “I was hoping he would go in the mid-fourth round so I would be champion of the family for going early in the fourth round. That was a long time ago. He's got me beat by quite a bit. I'm sure I'll hear about that.”
“We play similar styles but I'm not as physical as him,” Philip said. “But we're both shutdown defensemen that eat big minutes on the ice."
Still, playing professional hockey can be challenging for any young athlete, especially when he’s following in his father’s very large – and popular – footsteps. But that is nothing new to Philip.
"He played the game how he played it,” Philip said of his dad. “You can't take anything away from him. That was his career. I get comments every now and then. That's going to happen. I've learned to deal with it. I was 9 years when he retired. I played mini hockey in a lot of green rooms growing up. I met a lot of people in the hockey world at a young age."
"He's gone through that a long time ago,” Ulf said. “He's going to Boston to play college. If he can handle that he certainly can handle going to Pittsburgh and playing there. He's a mentally tough kid. He can handle it."
Pittsburgh’s fifth-round pick (123rd overall) was Velischek from high school in New Jersey. Velischek, just as Samuelsson, grew up with a famous hockey playing father.
Randy was drafted by Minnesota in the third round (53rd overall) in 1980. The elder Velischek played 509 NHL games for three teams (Minnesota, New Jersey and Quebec) from 1982 to 1992.
“He introduced me to the atmosphere of being a professional hockey player, being a professional athlete,” said Alex, who will follow in his father’s footsteps by attending Providence College. “I grew up (in Montreal) in the summers. Hockey has been a part of my life since I was 2 years old."
So what advice did Alex’s father have for him on draft day?
“He said the draft isn't the end all, be all,” Alex answered. “Just do your best and it's out of your hands at this point. Hopefully you get an opportunity to play one day. This is just one step closer to my final goal, which is to play professional hockey.”
The Velischek’s may share the same name and position, but there are slight differences in their game.
"I'm the opposite of my dad,” Alex said. “I'm more of an offensive defenseman. I step up in the play and take calculated risks. I like to control the puck at the point on the power play. I'm not really a checker but I'll play the body. I keep tight in the defensive zone but I like to take risks in the offensive zone."
Andy Bathgate is the grandson of NHL Hall of Famer Andy Bathgate, whom played for the Penguins in their inaugural 1967 season.
“He had a great career and obviously is in the Hall of Fame,” the younger Bathgate said. “He said to enjoy it every single day. It’s an honor to be drafted into the National Hockey League.”
Bathgate was not in Montreal for the draft. Instead he huddled with his family in the kitchen constantly refreshing his computer in the hopes of seeing his name.
“It was unbelievable,” Bathgate said. “When I saw my name it was pure excitement. I kept clicking and finally it was there. It was awesome to (experience) that with my family close by.
“All I’ve heard are great things about the (Penguins) organization, the ownership, the players and my grandfather played a few years there. I’ve heard great things and I’m really excited.”
But the draft is only the beginning for the hockey protégé. Now the real work begins.
“The work is just beginning for me,” said Bathgate, who played with Penguins prospect Eric Tangradi
with the Belleville Bulls. “I had to work hard to make it at Belleville. Now I have to keep working harder from here on out to get to where I want to be. You have to work hard and you have to want it.”