The Buffalo Sabres second-round pick of the 2014 NHL Draft is just like his father Claude in that regard.
“I’m proud of the way he played and how hated he was,” Lemieux said. “I just love that about him. I think that I definitely want to follow in his footsteps.”
He’s expected to attend the Sabres’ Development Camp next week which runs from July 14-18. The annual Blue & Gold Scrimmage will take place on Tuesday, July 15 at 7 p.m. and the week will end with a 3-on-3 tournament Friday morning.
Lemieux models his game after his dad and so far, he’s done a pretty good job of gaining a reputation as a great agitator. Lemieux scored 27 goals and 53 points for the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League this past season. He also racked up 145 penalty minutes.
What’s most important is the postseason. That’s the kind of player I want to be. I want to come up big when it counts. - Brendan Lemieux
Claude, however, knows how taxing that role can be and hopes that while Lemieux has a successful career, he doesn’t make as many enemies as he did in his playing days.
“Those are big shoes to fill. I was pretty hated,” he said. “Hopefully he’s not [as hated]. As his father, I hope he doesn’t get to that level but he likes to play as that instigator and [be an] in-your-face kind of player.”
Lemieux already has a chip on his shoulder. He thought there were a bunch of teams he could’ve been drafted by just because of ties to his dad. However, as the first round wore on, many of those teams went in different directions. Colorado, Montreal and New Jersey were among the teams that passed on him.
The first round of the draft was held on a Friday night and Lemieux had to wait until the next morning to see where he would go. He said he received a lot of support from his Colts coach – and Sabres Hall of Famer – Dale Hawerchuk, close family friend Jeremy Roenick and his dad even got a text message from the Great One, Wayne Gretzky.
Saturday morning, Buffalo selected Lemieux with the first pick of the second round.
“Wayne Gretzky sent my dad a text last night talking about how he proved a few people wrong in his day. A few experts though he’d never pan out and look where he ended up,” Lemieux said afterwards.
Claude was also a second-round pick, taken by the Canadiens in 1983. The draft position is one more thing they have in common.
“There were a few teams there [like] Colorado that really stung. I’m definitely going to love going into their arenas now and making it hard on their guys because they decided to pass me over,” Lemieux said. “I’m just going to use this as fuel. They gave one of the more fiery guys in the draft I’d like to say a lot more fire.”
“...But with that being said, I’m going to make my own path in Buffalo. I’m proud to be here and I’m proud to be selected. I just need to make the best of it now, go into camp and try to make an impact as quickly as I can.”
Claude’s brother Jocelyn played for Sabres coach Ted Nolan in 1994-95 when Nolan was an assistant coach in Hartford but other than that, the family has no real ties to Buffalo. Claude said that could really be a blessing. There’s certainly no pressure for Lemieux to do what his dad did in that uniform.
“It’s his career and it’s time to step outside my shadow and go play and be himself,” he said. “For that, I’m happy.”
Claude ranks ninth in all-time playoff goals with 80. He finished his career one goal ahead of Jean Beliveau and two goals behind Maurice Richard. He won the Stanley Cup four times in a career that spanned 1,215 NHL regular-season games. From 1986 until 2000, Claude’s teams (Montreal, New Jersey and Colorado) did not miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Like his father, Lemieux wants to establish a strong postseason resume.
“I definitely want to follow in his footsteps and I want to be that guy that can really step up in the playoffs and really be that playoff performer,” he said. “Because to me, that’s what’s most important is the postseason. That’s the kind of player I want to be. I want to come up big when it counts.”
One thing Claude can look forward to when he watches his son play for Buffalo is seeing old Sabres rivals like Rob Ray and Brad May.
“Brad always told me how much he loved Buffalo. I always said, ‘Really?’ It was one of the first few calls we got,” Claude said laughing. “A lot of memories. Thank God we don’t have to battle in that old rink anymore.”
And while Lemieux may want to be hated by his opponents, Claude doesn’t think it will take long for his son to become a fan favorite in Buffalo.
“He’s not quiet. He’s definitely not quiet. He’s a leader and he’s a winner. He loves to win and he plays the game the right way so I’m sure the fans will identify,” Claude said. “It’s the kind of player you need when you’re in a rebuilding mode. You want to have these character players.
“It’s like a recipe. You need a little bit of everything. You can’t just have potatoes in your beef stew. You’ve got to have a little bit of spice and he’ll bring that.”