Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Living the life of Ryan O'Reilly -- No. 1 center in Buffalo

By Larry Wigge

Decisions. Decisions.

Ever since Ryan O'Reilly entered the NHL as a second-round pick, 33rd overall, in the 2009 Entry Draft, he has been trying to prove to everyone that he was a premier center.

Unfortunately for the 6-foot, 200-pounder from Clinton, Ontario, he has had Paul Stastny and Matt Duchesne and later Duchesne and Nathan MacKinnon for ice time -- leaving him No. 3 center ice time.

In Denver, O'Reilly had to fight recognition.

Let's use Doug Gilmour, who came into the NHL as a player who used character and skill. Like most youngsters, he used his work ethic to advance himself as a terrific all-around player -- others coming to mind Patrice Bergeron, Rod Brind'Amour, Ryan Getzlaf, Danny Briere and Jordan Staal.

Faceoffs. Hits. Blocked shots. All of the above excelled in each of those qualities.

In 2013-14, he poured in 28 goals and 38 assists to finish third among the Colorado Avalanche in scoring behind Duchesne and Gabriel Landeskog in scoring. But, he always had the salary -- two years at $3.575 million -- that he held out that caused him to miss 13 games at the start of 2013.

It was like he was being held hostage for earning that kind of contract theoretically.

But in June, he was traded with Jamie McGinn for Nikita Zadorov and Mikhail Grigorenko. Not exactly what you would expect for such a productive second- or third-line center for the first six years of his career.

The Sabres quickly rewarded O'Reilly a seven-year, $52.5 million contract -- along with plenty of No. 1 center ice time.

"It's a relief coming to camp. It's just nice to kind of get on the ice and kind of focus on hockey, which is the most important thing for me," said the 24-year-old center.

Less than two weeks later, Ryan O'Reilly was arrested and charged with impaired driving and leaving the scene of an accident after allegedly driving his vintage pickup truck into the side of a Tim Hortons coffee shop near London, Ontario.

But that led to the season -- and a relief for O'Reilly.

O’Reilly has been carving his reputation as a hard worker and standout. He contributed a team-leading seven goals and nine assists in his first 19 games. He was also leading the NHL in takeaways, shooting for a fourth consecutive season leading the league in that category.

He also ranked first in the NHL in power-play points (seven), faceoff wins (160 for a 59 percent success rate) and ice time among forwards (21:32 per game).

"Coming here and seeing what they expected me to be, I have to be hard on myself," O’Reilly said. "On teams previous, I don't think my role was as big, so here being brought in to be seen as one of those key guys offensively, I think there’s more pressure on myself, which I enjoy, but at the same time I have to be better."

Who gave him his best advice?

"The best advice my dad gave to me was, 'It's not how people evaluate you, it's how you evaluate yourself. He always taught me to look inside inside myself.' "

This story of the O'Reilly clan is one of substance and loyalty, but most of all, one of love, charity and friendship.

You may not know about the O'Reilly's. But, there's a feel good story there. They foster the lives of others. They have opened their home as part of the Children's Aid Society of Ontario and served as foster parents to some 42 children.

"It was a crowded house," Ryan O'Reilly said laughing. "But ..."

Their home in Clinton, Ontario, was filled with lot of love. Caring and understanding could be found inside the walls of their basement, which was converted into one big bedroom.

Brian, Ryan's dad, is a high performance life coach. Bonnie, his mom, is a social worker, who is employed by Ryerson College in Toronto. To Cal, his brother, who has also played in the NHL, and Ryan, their father started out as a strength coach. But his real life job includes working for companies with internal psychology and a drug testing counselor. Ryan's brother Cal, who has played in the NHL for Nashville, Phoenix and Pittsburgh.

Ask Cal and Ryan about their mother and they will tell you that she is the most competitive member of the family ... and an excellent broomball player as a collegian.

For Brian and Bonnie, their worked with foster kids is special to them -- something important enough the share with their own children.

"They were troubled kids, with lot of issues going on," Ryan explained. "My parents took them in. They were kids that homes don't want.

"Amazing to see how strong of people they were ... just looking for a chance."

And to Cal and Ryan, they were just a group of extra brothers and sisters to them.

"For the first 14 years of my life there were wall to wall kids around the house," said Ryan, sporting a giant smile about the well-being of those kids. "It always seemed like there were four extra kids ... in addition to Cal."

They O'Reilly brothers never lacked company for endless hockey games. One such foster brother was named Jason Birch.

"Jason loved to go in the net. Once he came to our house, he started playing hockey for the first time and he just fell in love with it," Ryan said. "We'd have 4-on-4 hockey games at home every night. I was lucky to have other kids to play with like that, because it really did make me a better player. In a way, I have some of those kids to thank for where I am today."

The way HE is today.

"Cal and I were trained in being good brother and most important good human being by our parents," said Ryan.

So, you can see whatever happens, hockey is only a small part of what happens at the O'Reilly household.

Now, as we said before, it is Ryan O'Reilly's time to shine. At 6-feet, 200 pounds, Ryan has that protypical large lower body. He established himself as the typical rookie center, even though he became the first player since Boston's Patrice Bergeron -- you remember him -- to step right into the NHL from the second round of the draft in 2003.

Ryan used his skills and patience to become a leader in Colorado.

"He's shown last year that he's got a lot more to his game than being the solid two-way centerman that he's been the past three years," said Landeskog. "He showed us all just how mature he is and how he handles himself on and off the ice ... the way he prepares himself for games. I really look up to him."

With his father having worked with Olympic athletes in the past, O'Reilly got an early lesson on what it took to become a professional athlete.

Their are no signs of the work ethic, the level-headed approach to the game waning in Ryan O'Reilly short career. Nor should their be.

Looking back to what kind of life Brian and Bonnie O'Reilly have prepared him for, all systems are on green for this season. One of the most cherished things to Cal and Ryan O'Reilly is the experience their parents have presented to them. They have learned from every single episode in their lives ... from hockey, to being a better brother or sister to their foster relatives.

"I don't know how they do it, but it's amazing," Ryan O'Reilly said of their parents. "It's one of the best things that's ever happened to me. Doing the fostering and being a part of that, it's opened my world to more important things.

"If I'm like that at all, it's only because of my mom and dad."

So, you see, charity and hard work start at home for Ryan O'Reilly. And he is worth every penny he seeks.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Patrick Marleau : Stands for more than just 1,000 points

By Larry Wigge

Every successful athlete knows that timing is important. He must BE IN the moment.

Take 36-year-old Patrick Marleau.

A little more than 18 years ago, Marleau was the second pick overall in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft by the San Jose Sharks held at Pittsburgh's Civic Arena, which was located across Centre Avenue from where Consol Energy Center is now.

On November 21, Marleau added two assists in a 3-1 San Jose Sharks victory over the Penguins. His first assist seven minutes into the game set up Joel Ward, who in turn, dished a pass Brent Burns for a 1-0 lead.

"That's really cool," Marleau said. "Being drafted here and getting the 1,000 points here, there's some significance here in Pittsburgh. It's something I'll always remember."

Joe Thornton, who just happened to be the No. 1 overall pick ahead of Marleau, said that Patrick is a quiet star, not like so many of the others over the years.

"You can look for someone who has a loud voice and big persona. But players look for someone who is a quiet leader, someone who knows the right thing to say ... and when to say it," explained Thornton. "Patty plays hard EVERY DAY -- at practice and in the games.

"He's an example for all of us to follow. You want someone who symbolizes that work ethic."

Marleau was in the moment in 1997... just as he is today.

The Aneroid, Saskatchewan, native, accumulated a total of 461 goals, 539 assists in 1,349 games gave him 1,001 points -- all with the Sharks.

He didn't accomplish the feat with a wrist shot or a slap shot like you would expect. But setting up a goal ...

"It's funny, but I remember watching this kid with so much potential, so many skills, as a junior player," Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson said, breaking out in a wide smile. "We were sold on his character and the type of person he was, but the total package is what we drafted."

There may not be any more 30-plus goal seasons like the seven the 6-2, 220-pound forward produced in his first 16 seasons. Last season, the 6-2, 220-pound forward had 19 goals. But ...

"This guy is one of the best players in the last 10 or 15 years," said coach Peter DeBoer. "He's in great shape. I think last year was a bit of an aberration. He's come out with a lot of other guys to prove that."

"Marleau is big, strong and fast. Give him a step and he's gone," Predators defenseman Shea Weber told me.

"He gets on you pretty fast," Canucks goaltender Ryan Miller added.

Look no farther than his six goals and seven assists in the first 20 games this season. Three of those goals have been game winners -- 90 game-winning goals in his career.

In the moment ...

You can predict certain things from watching a 17-year-old player. But the intangibles that translate into a leader normally can be traced back to a player's upbringing. For Patrick Marleau, that's being brought up by Denis and Jeanette, his parents, whose farm in tiny Aneroid concentrates on cattle, grain and wheat.

"I’ll never forget those days when we would come home from school, get our chores done and then go out to the dugout, shovel off the snow and play hockey until it got dark," Marleau said. "School, chores and then hockey. That’s what my dad always reminded my brother, Richard, and me."

It was a culture that breeds hard work and solid citizens.

There’s a post office, a general store that serves gas, a grain elevator and Shaw's hotel, which has seven guest rooms in Aneroid (population 40). But there's no stop light and the nearest high school was more than an hour away in Swift Current.

"I'll never forget where I came from. Never," Marleau said recently. "I remember when I left for San Jose hearing my dad say, 'Son, never forget your roots.' "

Marleau paused and kind of hinted that Aneroid will always be a part of him. Like learning to skate in the dugout -- where the cattle would go for water. When the water would freeze over, Patrick and Richard Marleau had some really competitive games of one-on-on. They also became good friends with the caretaker of the local skating rink.

"We called him Tony Zamboni," Marleau recalled. "We were always knocking at his door. I think he would wait for us sometimes, then would let us in."

Sort of like Patrick Marleau’s own little Field of Dreams story -- at the dugout and the their own little skating rink in town.

"I was small until I was 15-16, something like 5-9, 5-10," Marleau recalled. "Then I had a spurt, when I was 16 and grew to 6-0, 6-1. I felt bigger and stronger and more confident."

Now, Patrick is one of the most difficult players in the NHL to game plan because of his size and speed.

After rotating the captaincy, Patrick Marleau became the Sharks' full-time captain during the 2003-04 season.

Marleau will tell you that he thinks he really grew up when he met his bride, Christina, a couple years ago and then they were blessed with a son, Landon Patrick, just before this season.

"It's been unbelievable, something you can't begin to describe. It's just joy. When you're on the road for a while, you can't wait to be at home, holding him. Especially now when he's starting to do facial expressions, laughing and giggling," said Marleau, who wanted to let us know that he scored one goal and added an assist in the first game young Landon attended. "It’s easier to go home and get my mind off the game ... all the worries ... and come back refreshed."

He laughed at the thought of his youngster, saying, "I'm not too bad at diapers."

Never once has Patrick Marleau lost that little boy’s desire. He’ll never forget that shoveling the snow off the dugout so he and his brother could skate after school. He'll never forget getting personal access to the town rink thanks to Tony Zamboni.

But hard work is something Patrick Marleau is not allergic to. And that drive and competitiveness all started back on that 1,600 acre farm in Aneroid, Saskatchewan.

Friday, November 13, 2015

James Neal: He scores goals doesn't he ...

By Larry Wigge

James Neal is just lurking.

He's hiding behind some bushes waiting to ambush the nearest goaltender.

"For me, I want to score ... I've got to score," says Neal, who in on pace to score 20 goals for the eighth straight season.

"When the opportunities are there, you want to bury them."

The 6-2, 208-pound right winger for the Nashville Predators said after notching seven goals in first 10 games this seasons. Neal has one of the best one-timers in the NHL -- in 2011-12 he netted 40 goals.

"When you're in the zone, you're feeling it, you almost feel like tapping you stick ... you want it," gushed Neal. "You want the puck a lot because you feel like everything's going to go in when you shoot it."

Their are six players that join Neal as 20-goal scorers since joining the NHL -- Jaromir Jagr, Alexander Ovechkin, Thomas Vanek, Patrick Kane, Steven Stamkos and Jonathan Toews.

"I think he's one of the best goal scorers in the league," says Predators GM David Poile. "I think his record supports that.

"I like his speed, I like the fact he's dangerous all the time he is out there."

When Neal is moving his feet. He has been physically engaged, disrupting opposing plays in Nashville's offensive zone with a strong forecheck.

Linemate Philip Forsberg says, "Today, I just gave him the puck twice and he put it in the back of the net twice. That's the type of player he is."

Poile believes there is nothing wrong with Neal. Brett Hull played with Calgary, St. Louis, Dallas, Detroit and Phoenix. But, in his later days, Hull won a Stanley in Dallas and Detroit.

"I'm aware of how he plays," Poile sayis. "I like taking players for what they are and what they do. I'm not big on trying to change players. If I wanted to change a guy, I probably wouldn't trade for him."

For me, I'll never forget seeing Neal in the locker room as a rookie in 2009 in Montreal, head on a swivel making sure he did not miss anything. He didn't have a locker. Neal's position in the room was near a pole and he had a metal chair to sit on ... and his nameplate was written on paper and was fastened to pole.

Around him where Jarome Iginla, Ryan Getzlaf, Scott Niedermayer, Roberto Luongo, Shane Doan, Rick Nash, Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton and Mike Modano.

While he looked in awe, this Whitby, Ontario, native, was part of the YoungStars in the Montreal.

"I don't know what to say ... or who to say it too," said the 22-year-old Neal. "I'm just going to soak up all of the action."

Neal has the skills to go along with it. Good shot. Nose for the net. He battles hard and competes at a high pace. He finishes around the net with his stick ... and his grit. All of the intangibles made him a second-round pick, 33rd overall, in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.

"When I'm playing with that confidence, playing with that attitude, you can visualize," Neal said. "When you get the puck, you know exactly where you want to put it. You do it before the game, too. I try to visualize all different kinds of shots, angles, you name it."

And they all go in? Don't they.

"That's the thing," he added with a grin. "And once I have that visualization when I'm on the ice, I just try to get the shot off quickly."

"James is dangerous from anywhere," says his former Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma. "I think you could teach a lesson with getting open and releasing."

"His wrist shot is probably the best in I've seen," said teammate Pascal Dupuis.

Said Neal, "I just try to bring a physical aspect, I think I can put the puck in the net and be good around the net -- and be physical and play hard every shift."

Neal's father, Peter, coached him for the major part of his minor hockey. Peter is a real estate agent. His mom, Debra, runs the house. James has three younger brothers (Michael, Peter, and Nicholas) and one younger sister (Rebecca). Michael, plays in the Dallas organization was drafted in the fifth round, 149th overall, in 2007.

"He put a puck through his garage door," said Peter, who laughed ... and then sort of shook his head at the constant repair of the garage.

Saying he got tired of fixing the whole garage, so, "I used to just fix the hole."

Neal said he learned to be focused from his father. He learned to always be ready to play each shift whistle-to-whistle.

Obstacles? Most players have them. Neal said he was small.

"When I was younger, I was smaller and kind of developed the hands and tried to be a little more skilled, but once I started to grow and get bigger I kind of changed my game into a power forward," Neal said.

He didn't have to worry about being too small for too long. At 16, Neal started working out during the summers with Gary Roberts and Adam Foote.

"Growing up, it was all hockey," Neal recalled. "The fact I had an opportunity to train with guys like Gary Roberts and Adam Foote was as good as it gets. I started training with Roberts when I was 16 by going to his gym in Toronto -- and I got to know him very well.

"When I finished up in Toronto, I started training with Foote, who lived right around the corner from me in Whitby."

That self-proclaimed confidence is why they call James Neal, "The Real Deal."

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Legacies are built on stories like John Tavares

By Larry Wigge

It was a strange and yet eery little conversation. It was something I never to forget.

Here it is ...

During the 2007 Stanley Cup finals, the Anaheim Mighty Ducks hosted an NHL Entry Draft preview of the top prospects. Patrick Kane and five of the world best talents were there at a luncheon. One of them was Sam Gagner.

Sam was the son of Dave Gagner, who for nearly 15 years toiled for the New York Rangers, Minnesota, Dallas, Toronto, Calgary, Florida and Vancouver. The elder Gagner, who was also there, you might remember him as slick center. A thinking man's player.

As it happens Sam Gagner went sixth overall to the Edmonton Oilers. But ...

Dave and Sam both let me know about the up-close-at-personal information I am about to share with you.

The Gagners backyard rink in Oakville a number of the best players in the Ontario Hockey League. It seems that John Tavares was Sam's best friend and rival. They lived in the same neighborhood.

And if you needed an advance scouting report on Tavares just listen:

"John is bigger and stronger than Sam and sometimes ... the way he plays is downright ruthless," Dave Gagner said of the six-foot, 183-pound Tavares.

"We had some pretty heated one-one-one battles on the rink," Sam said with a confident grin.

"He'd tell you he won most of them, but he'd be lying."

The stakes were more than about bragging rights, however. These anything-goes contests sometimes had no rules, no fouls, in which goals would only be counted if the puck was banked off a goalpost and in.

"The games were supposed to go to five ... but ended up going to 20," Sam Gagner said with a competitive smile.

"Whoever lost wanted to keep the game going."

That's when Dave Gagner would turn out the lights and, in essence, the game would be over.

The remembrance I seem to recall would resurface like fine wine ... Taveras did become the first pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft by the New York Islanders.

"His hockey game speaks for itself," Islanders GM Garth Snow gushed. "Anyone that watches him play realizes he's a special talent. But ..."

Leaving all of those scouting assignments behind him.

Snow continues, "But behind the scenes, the character that John is, it's probably the biggest attribute he's brought to our organization."

Now we take you from the way back part of this story ...

On November 10, John Tavares started and finished the scoring for the Islanders in a 4-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks. They was his sixth and seventh goals this season.

"Growing up, I was always a really heavily offensive player," Tavares said. "But I've realized more and more that to play professional hockey and to be a very good NHL player, to try to be one of the best in the league, you have to be good on both sides of the puck.

"And my play away from the puck is something I've worked really hard at. My overall skating and the tempo of my game, pace of my game, has improved."

The "ruthless" youngster entered the NHL with 24 goals and 30 assists in 2009-10. Last season, some five years later, Tavares topped 24 goals in each season.

Tavares addressed his only significant weakness by improving his skating last season in 2011-12 -- his first season at the All-Star Game and a work stoppage in which he spent some time in Bern, Switzerland. But Tavares worked hard during the summer months in California to improve his skating stride.

That the way it is with John Tavares -- working hard to achieve his own legend, not someone else like Sidney Crosby or Wayne Gretzky.

In 2014-15, John finished with 22 points in 13 games. That put him at -- a career-high 38 goals and 48 assists -- one point behind Dallas' Jamie Benn for the NHL scoring lead, 87 to 86 points.

"If you look at Sidney Crosby and you look at Alexander Ovechkin ... it would be tough not to put Johnny in that category, as the face of the New York Islanders," said Islanders coach Jack Capuano.

No one could handle his combination of power and speed. No one has that special radar that Tavares displays around the net. That come his love for lacrosse, which was special to Tavares.

It was lacrosse that taught him how to spin off checks and battle in traffic -- skills he says transferred easily to hockey and helped make him such a feared threat around the net.

As a youngster, John Tavares was an extremely competitive boy. He seemed headed for greatness in lacrosse. His uncle, also named John Tavares, was a prolific goal-scorer in the National Lacrosse League when John was young. He ended up as the NLL’s all-time leading scorer. For one year, Tavares served as a ball-boy for the Buffalo Bandits, when his uncle played there.

John learned the game from his father, Joe. His mother, Barbara, was also integral part of his career. She drove him to practice and games, regardless of the destination.

"My dad's job was very physically demanding. They were tough hours of the day and he sacrificed a lot of time with our family," Tavares said. "He wasn't there every game, every practice. It was mostly my mom taking me to do those things. But I knew how much he wanted to be there and watch me grow up."

Barbara described lacrosse games and soccer games where John would play so hard, he would be thrown out of games for simply running over other players. He was 5.

"As soon as he played organized hockey, he stood out from the rest," she said. "It was one of the reasons why I moved him up an age. I had to. He played so aggressively and he was so strong."

Said Tavares, laughing at his mothers suggestion, "That's part of the game. Sometime that gets the blood going a little bit. Sometimes it gets you a little pissed off."

Still, there are the comparisons that come along ever four or five years. Better than Bobby Orr or Wayne Gretzky or ...

Shortly after the All-Star Game in Columbus in 2015, where John Tavares scored a hat trick, Toroto defenseman Dion Phaneuf remarked about how swifty Tavares had come along.

"Johnny is a great player. I played with him at the Worlds Championships last year," Phaneuf said. "I'm always matched up against him, so I see a lot of him when I'm playing against him and I know how skilled he is.

"He has got another extra step of speed that's very noticeable."

Noticeable. That's John Tavares every time he step onto the ice.

"John Tavares wants to win the Stanley Cup with the Islanders," said Moulson. "He's not the type of guy who bails ship. He wants to win here."

From skating in a backyard rink in Oakville, Ontario, to starring in the NHL, John Tavares has proven to everyone just how special he is.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Jeff Carter has learned the right way to play -- and win

By Larry Wigge

With each and every shift ... it seemed like Jeff Carter was becoming a huge part of it.

The 6-4, 210-pound center had to produce for the Los Angeles Kings because center No. 1 center Anze Kopitar went out of the game early in the first period with a head injury and ...

"The coach kept tapping on the shoulder," Carter said of coach Darryl Sutter calling on him.

"No, I never got tired of it."

Carter has become a more effective player with the Kings. More involved. Dynamic even, since his February 2012 trade from Columbus.

On this night in St. Louis, more than just the life of a power forward. Getting to the net. Getting in that heavy traffic. It takes a lot of work to take a pounding ... sometimes.

But Carter, using his big reach snapped a hard shot short side, for the game's first goal in a 3-0 victory over the St. Louis Blues.

Jeff has played in all of the 151 games played by the Kings since his trade from the Blue Jackets -- becoming the club's ironman. Against St. Louis, he scored his fifth goal in 12 games -- his second game-winning goals in the last three games.

The London, Ontario, native, finally used his long reach to flick a shot high short-side over Jake Allen while the Kings and Blues were both shorthanded at 15:52 of the second period.

And ... it was the second game in as many days for the Kings. But, there he stood in the middle of the locker room after the game.

In just a few words ... he felt involved, wanted, determined to be a big factor.

"Whenever a player goes out off the lineup like Kopitar did, every body steps in and takes the odd shift," Carter said. "I'd rather take the extra shifts that sit on the bench.

"I want to play."

Carter, who is in his 11th season in the NHL, plays the game like his is 16 going on 30. Jeff has scored 46 goals in 2008-09. He has score more than 25 goals eight times. Jeff Carter took the Philadelphia Flyers to the Stanley Cup finals in 2010 and won the Cup twice with the Kings.

You get this impression of him as a KID.

Carter has made the most of his time with the Kings -- they won in the Stanley Cup in 2012 and again in 2014.

"Anywhere you grow up in Canada, it's everyone's dream to win the Stanley Cup," the Los Angeles Kings forward said. "You hear the stories about what it's like and when it actually happened, I remember skating around the ice for four or five minutes and my mind just went blank.

"Everyone's going crazy and celebrating and you just don't know what to think. It's a pretty different feeling."

Sutter said. "He has become a leader. It's good to see a player become a role model."

Down the stretch of two Stanley Cup titles, GM Dean Lombardi said he also had seen the new Carter. It was different from 2012. In 2014, Carter was different from the one in Philadelphia where Lombardi first saw him while working in the Flyers front office.

"He's like a gunslinger -- a potential goal scorer every time he's on the ice," the GM said. "That was the one element we thought we were lacking last year.

"I've known Jeff since he was 17. He kind of always just played ..."

At this point, Lombardi, who had scouted Jeff when he was on the staff of the Flyers that picked Carter in the first round of the 2003 draft, recalled the weight loss wasn't the only thing that was different in Carter.

"When he came back and trained," Lombardi continued. "I've never seen him work so hard. It was like a total about face.

"He's really grown up. I think we starting to see some leadership. I remember watching his training. Watching him run. I've never seen such a commitment from Jeff.

"We were getting more that we bargained for."

The goal on this night was a classic goal-scorer's move.

"It's good to see him score," said Kings head coach Darryl Sutter. "He's a goal-scorer. You're counting on him to score a big goal."

"Jeff Carter is not going to come in and be the cavalry," Lombardi said. "It's not easy to go out in the marketplace and find a guy with the potential to score 40 goals who is 27 and a cap number ($5.2 million per season) that's very favorable in terms of me keeping this nucleus together."

Part of Carter's upbringing was his father's influence.

Jim Carter's claim to fame was being selected between Mike Gartner and Dino Ciccarelli in the 1976 Ontario Hockey League draft. Gartner and Ciccarelli went on to become NHL superstars, combining for more than 1,300 goals and 2,500 points. Jim Carter, a 5-8, 145-pound forward, endured the worst season in Oshawa Generals history, hung up his skates, and went to work at a local copper mill.

"He coached me from the time I could skate until I was 16," said Jeff. "It was awesome.

"He was never one of those dads who just pushes, pushes, pushes. With him, you go play, you go home and you leave the game at the rink. He just wanted me to go out and have fun and it all worked out."

"He'd score 75 or 100 goals in a season," Jim Carter said. "You could tell he was a natural because things came to him fairly easy."

As a coach, Jim Carter said he stressed the fundamentals of the game with an emphasis on skating and positioning.

Carter's best advice to his son, Jeff, "If you can't skate ... you can't play."

Jeff Carter has certainly shown his ability to play -- and lead. If you happen to get his in a talkative mood, you can learn a lot about him.