PHILADELPHIA — Brendan Lemieux’s Friday night didn’t go the way he planned. He waited to hear his name called, but after thirty picks he remained in his seat inside Wells Fargo Center wondering when an NHL team would draft him.
On Saturday, his fortunes would turn.
Minutes after he entered the arena as the second round was getting under way, the Buffalo Sabres selected Lemieux with the first pick of the day (no. 31 overall).
“I was disappointed,” Lemieux said. “I expected to be a first round pick and never really looked at the second round. But that being said, things have a way of working out. I think it could be a blessing in disguise that I had to wait it out.
Heading back to the hotel Friday night, Lemieux was encouraged by family friends, including Jeremy Roenick and Dale Hawerchuk. Then there was the note of encouragement sent via text from Wayne Gretzky to Lemieux’s dad, former NHLer Claude Lemieux, about how the Great One overcome doubters when he was coming up.
Lemieux, who said he felt that his interview with Buffalo was his worst one, says he models his game after his dad. “He’s my biggest role model on and off the ice.”
Claude Lemieux’s reputation during his NHL days is well known. One of the league’s most hated players was also one who produced in the postseason, scoring double digit goals three times while winning four Stanley Cups with Montreal, New Jersey and Colorado.
The younger Lemieux has embraced his father’s reputation.
“I’m proud of the way he played and how hated he was,” he said. “I just love that about him. I definitely want to follow in his footsteps and I want to be that guy that can step up in the playoffs and really be that playoff performer. To me, that’s what’s most important is the postseason and that’s the kind of player I want to be. I want to come up big when it counts.”
Lemieux scored 27 goals and posted 67 points with Barrie of the OHL this past season. The 18-year old winger jumped ten spots from the NHL Central Scouting’s midterm rankings to the final list released in April. He may have dropped to the second day of the draft, but that isn’t enough to discourage him going forward. In fact, it’s going to serve as a huge motivation.
“There were a few teams there that really stung,” he said, referencing the Colorado Avalanche. “I’m definitely to love going in their arenas and really making it hard on their guys because they decided to pass me over, so 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.”
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