Friendship, famous dads connect three Team USA prospects

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- Fifteen years ago, Ryan MacInnis, Matthew Tkachuk and Dominic Turgeon ran around the bowels of Scottrade Center like they owned the place, playing mini-sticks and generally creating havoc in the dressing room where their fathers -- Keith Tkachuk, Al MacInnis and Pierre Turgeon -- were all members of the St. Louis Blues.

Today, all three are elite hockey players in their own right, and they recently spent a week in Lake Placid, New York, at USA Hockey's national junior team evaluation camp for consideration to represent the red, white and blue at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship in Helsinki, Finland.

"During our dads' games, we'd all sit together and watch, and then after -- if they won, if they were happy -- we'd go down in their room, and they had a little mini hockey rink in their dressing room, and we'd all play there," said MacInnis, a second-round pick (43rd overall) in 2014 by the Arizona Coyotes.

"All I know is, I was way better than them at mini-sticks," Tkachuk, 17, said with a big smile.

MacInnis and Turgeon, born only 11 days apart, are nearly 2 years older than Tkachuk, and while they crossed paths at the local rinks in St. Louis, all three have yet to play on a team together. They are excited about the possibility of doing so on the national team.

"Ryan was my best friend growing up. Whenever he wanted to play hockey, I wanted to play hockey," said Turgeon, a third-round pick (63rd overall) in 2014 by the Detroit Red Wings. "It's cool to see where we are now and having the opportunity to play together again, especially like this. It'd be a dream come true. Obviously, we all want to make this team so badly, but to be able to be on this team together would be an unbelievable feeling."

With fathers who not only played in the NHL but also were each impact players with long careers, it's hard to avoid comparisons.

For MacInnis and Turgeon, it's easier to deal with because they are such different players than their fathers were. Ryan MacInnis, 19, is a two-way center, and his father was a Hall of Fame defenseman; Turgeon, 19, is also a two-way center, while his father was an offensive dynamo who earned more than a point per game in his 18-year NHL career.

For Tkachuk, it's much harder, especially when Team USA coach Ron Wilson also coached Matthew's father throughout his international career and noted the striking similarities.

"He looks a lot like his old man out there, and he did his dad proud here," Wilson said. "He's not nearly as big as his dad was -- at least not yet -- but he has a nose for the net, and he fights and claws. He's tenacious like his dad was and even scored a couple goals here that were classic Keith Tkachuk goals. He keeps that up, and he's got a great shot to be on this team."

"That's a great compliment by Coach Wilson," said Tkachuk, who is entering his draft year. "It's pretty hard to play like [my dad]. He was a great player. I'm just trying to make a good impression with the coaches and try to make my teammates better and ultimately want to make this team."

Based on his offensive contributions at the national team camp -- five points in three games, including a hat trick -- Tkachuk would have to have a disastrous start to his season with the OHL's London Knights or get injured to not be invited to selection camp in mid-December.

The powers-that-be at USA Hockey will look to Tkachuk to be an impact player in the top six who can also kill penalties and contribute offensively, especially on the power play. Turgeon, who also made a good impression at the camp, will be looking to solidify his spot centering the third or fourth line with strong defensive play and an offensive upside while with the WHL's Portland Winterhawks.

"He will be looked at from a defensive point of view," Wilson said. "He definitely skates better than his dad -- and I don't mean that negatively -- but he's a better skater than I expected him to be, and he's just got to continue to impress us. We need strong players like him on this team."

For MacInnis, the challenge of making this team seems a bit harder, as he was sent home when USA Hockey reduced the roster earlier in the week. He will still be evaluated throughout the course of his season with the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL, with a keen eye on his potential to contribute in the bottom six and on the penalty kill.

For all three, the goals are to continue to impress and improve over the next three months, then earn an invitation to selection camp and ultimately a spot on this team.

"It's a huge honor to be part of this World Junior tryout. Making this team has been my goal ever since I saw John Carlson score [in overtime to win gold in 2010], and whenever you get the chance to wear the red, white and blue, it's such an honor," Tkachuk said. "To have the possibility of doing it with friends you grew up with and learned to love the game with, it's icing on the cake."