Playing in the upcoming CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game comes with a fair share of pressure already. After all, the game features some of the best young hockey talent in the nation.
But try taking the ice with the added pressure of being the son of a former player in the National Hockey League.
That’s precisely what faces two such players who will hit the ice Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. One is Kyle MacLean, a forward out of Basking Ridge, New Jersey. MacLean is the son of former NHL vet John MacLean, who totaled 842 points (413 goals, 429 assists) over 17 seasons, before going behind the bench as a coach with the New Jersey Devils and Carolina Hurricanes, including a stint as Devils head coach in 2010. To date he has helped the Devils claim the Stanley Cup twice, once as a player (1995) and once as an assistant coach (2003).
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One of MacLean’s teammates will be Cayden Primeau — a goaltender out of Voorhees, New Jersey — who has his own set of strong NHL bloodlines. His father, Keith Primeau, had 619 points (266 goals, 353 assists) in 15 seasons with the Detroit Red Wings, Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes and Philadelphia Flyers.
But both players, at just 17 years of age, already carry themselves like players with NHL futures. Neither seems fazed by the past accolades of their fathers.
“There’s people who are going to have a standard for you,” Cayden Primeau said. “But playing a different position [than Keith] it’s a completely different game being a goalie than a forward. I don’t really feel that pressure.”
“I never felt pressure trying to live up to anything,” Kyle MacLean said. “[John MacLean] had a great NHL career. But I always found myself as my own player, always had confidence in my own game, that I could make a name for myself. I never worried about that really. With him being a coach in the NHL and having played, it was cool growing up having those bloodlines.”
At 6 feet and 175 pounds, Kyle MacLean describes himself as a two-way forward who likes to use his speed. He played this past season with the Oshawa Generals of the Ontario Hockey League, the exact team and the exact league his father played in from 1981-1984. He scored four goals and added five assists in 47 games.
“I’m kind of a speedy winger,” Kyle MacLean said. “I’m a two-way forward, that’s probably the best way to describe it … I like to think of myself as a two-way winger that can skate and makes plays with the puck.”
“He has a pretty good handle on what he is, who he is and how he has to play,” John MacLean said. “I think he has a good understanding of the game, his hockey I.Q. is good. He knows that it’s a 200-foot game and that’s what he needs to play. As he goes along and he gains strength, his game has been elevating, and that has been nice to see.”
Cayden Primeau — a big-bodied goalie at 6-foot-3 and 180 pounds — already has experience playing against the elite. Aside from his play with the Philadelphia Revolution of the Eastern Hockey League, Primeau played for the U.S. Under-18 Select Team at the famed Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup. In that tournament, Primeau posted a 2.59 goals against average in three games.
“[The Hlinka Cup] definitely helped,” Cayden Primeau said. “Playing against all those other countries, the best of those countries, it was fun playing with kids who will also be playing in this game at the next level.”
When Cayden is playing for the Revolution, his dad isn’t far away. Keith is the head coach. But Keith, a forward throughout his career, lets Cayden find his own way between the pipes.
“I don’t pretend to be a goalie guy,” Keith Primeau said. “I let him and his goalie coach have that relationship. Although I’m his coach, I’m also his father. I just enjoy watching him.”
“He knows not to yell at me, because my mom will get on him about that,” Cayden Primeau joked.
The strategy seems to work. Cayden Primeau posted a 16-5 record for the Revolution last year, with a 1.86 goals against average.
“He’s got a high hockey I.Q., he reads the play really well,” Keith Primeau said. “He’s a big body, so positionally he’s solid. He’s what I like to call a high percentage goalie. He’s going to square up a shooter and make you beat him with a good shot.”
John MacLean takes a similar approach as Keith Primeau with his son Kyle, letting him find his own way and forge his own path on the ice.
“Along the way, we’ve allowed [Kyle and his brother John Carter MacLean, who played for the Omaha Lancers of the USHL last season] to make some decisions and find their way. The biggest thing for me and my wife is that he loves the game. They have a joy to play. Hockey has been good to our family, I’m just glad they’re enjoying it and they keep improving as the years go on.”
The game will be played in Philadelphia, a town with an extremely passionate hockey fan base. The Primeaus and MacLeans are no strangers to the area by any means, thanks to Keith Primeau being a former Flyer and John MacLean playing and coaching for the rival Devils.
“It was a great city to play in, I really enjoyed my time there,” Keith Primeau said. “I always felt as though, when I arrived in Philadelphia, I was truly home. For me, it ended up being the best stop on the tour in my career.”
“Philly is such a great organization, they’ve always had competitive teams, and we know they’ve always been a tough team,” MacLean said. “I played in the old Spectrum. With the Devils, we enjoyed going in there and holding our own early in our careers, which was fun. As years went on, we got better and had some battles with them in the old Patrick Division and go on to win the Eastern Conference. I always enjoyed playing in Philly. You had to keep your senses sharp, because it was going to be a physical game.”
Kyle MacLean and Cayden Primeau will be coached by another NHL alum during the prospects game. Both will be playing for the squad coached by Hockey Hall of Famer John LeClair, who played from 1994-2004 with the Flyers and had three consecutive 50-goal seasons from 1995-1998. Fellow Hall of Famer Mark Howe — who played with the Flyers from 1982-1992 and scored the most goals by a defenseman (138) in team history — will coach the opposing squad.
“Getting the chance to play [in Philadelphia], on a bigger stage, it’s going to be pretty special,” Kyle MacLean said.
Faceoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc