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Hockey is in some players' DNA

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HOCKEY genes will be among the headlines at the NHL's entry draft, June 22-23 in Pittsburgh.

Among the chosen in the first round will be Griffin Reinhart, son of former NHL defenceman Paul Reinhart. It's also possible Stefan Matteau, son of former forward Stephane Matteau, and Lukas Sutter, Rich's son, could climb into the first round.

And later on, expect to hear the names Malcolm Subban, goalie and brother of Montreal's P.K., and Henrik Samuelsson, centre and son of former defenceman Ulf.

Both Reinhart and Sutter were wearing their lineage as badges of honour at last weekend's NHL scouting combine in Toronto.

"I'm pretty fortunate that teams know a lot about my family," said Sutter, the fiery 18-year-old centre from the WHL's Saskatoon Blades. "There's not too much that's hidden about me. It's pretty well all out there."

Reinhart's a six-foot-four defenceman with the WHL's Edmonton Oil Kings, who like his father can play it both ways but is not known to be overly physical. Of note, too, is that Paul Reinhart was Atlanta's (the Flames) first-round pick 33 years ago.

"I think part of it has been passed down from my dad, some genetics, the way he played," said the 18-year-old Reinhart, clearly comfortable doing multiple interviews during combine week. "I play a pretty similar style. My personality off the ice is pretty similar to on.

"I think that can be an asset to my game."

Sutter, who met with 21 of the 30 NHL teams last week, has a strong sense of what his assets are.

His name, he said, has not made him a target in the WHL to this point.

"It's a legacy in the game of hockey," he said. "I don't feel it as pressure or as a target. It's just something you want to live up to. My dad, my uncles, my cousins have all done a very good job of that. It's something that pushes you to be better each and every day."

In 2011-12 with the Blades, he had 59 points and fought just 10 times, a sharp reduction from his rookie year.

"My first year I was playing very limited minutes so when you get on the ice, you want to do what you can to make an impression," he said. "This year, the focus was me trying to play against the other team's best players."

Sutter was asked if he ever felt "obliged" to play a certain way because of his surname.

"It's in my blood," he smiled. "It's not something I've ever been taught. I'm a very competitive person off the ice. You want to be the best player you can be, the best person you can be each and every day. That's something I was raised on. Those are the values that my family has."

Reinhart also met with 21 NHL teams during the interview phase last week and said it got pretty repetitive.

"It's a lot of the same questions, so you have to keep your energy up," he said. "After the 21 interviews, you definitely know what you're strengths and weaknesses are."

The process also caused him to ponder the decent chance that he'll be picked by a Canadian team. The Jets are among five Canadian teams in the first 14 picks of the draft.

"Any Canadian team would be unbelievable to go to," Reinhart said. "Playing in Winnipeg, I've got some (Edmonton) teammates that love it there, especially how hockey's starting to get back into Winnipeg. It'd be a big honour to play there."

And much like Sutter, he feels his improving game has caused his rise in the draft rankings over the last year.

"Especially since Christmas this year, when some of the guys left for the world junior, I think my role stepped up a little bit," Reinhart said. "Through the Memorial Cup, I think I've come a long way and I think my skating improved a lot this year."


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 4, 2012 C4

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