Cassels. Domi. Mantha. Rychel. They are names that many hockey fans are familiar with, the names of former NHL players. But those names also represent a new wave of talent, still on the way to hopefully making an impact in the pro ranks.
Hockey is in the blood of many players competing at the 2013 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game and a remarkable number have a family history of NHL competition.
For Kerby Rychel of the Windsor Spitfires, it's his father Warren. Despite never being drafted, Warren Rychel played in over 400 NHL games across five different teams, including winning the Stanley Cup as a member of the Colorado Avalanche in 1996. He is now a co-owner of the Spitfires, where he gets to see his son play often.
"He helps me a lot. He watches most of my games and so he says things that he thinks can be beneficial," says the younger Rychel. He continues by noting that his father is "definitely someone I've turned to my whole life. He's given me a lot of good advice on and off the ice."
In fact, Kerby credits his father's career for helping him pick up the game in the first place.
"I was around the game a lot when I was younger and I just fell in love with it. Seeing all the NHL guys and seeing how much fun they had, it was definitely something I wanted to do."
Rychel's Top Prospects teammate Max Domi has a similar background. Like Rychel, Domi's father was also known as a rough-and-tumble NHL player. In his case, his dad was fan favorite Tie Domi, who played over 1000 NHL games and is best remembered for his time as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The younger Domi plays for the London Knights in the OHL and, while he is no where close to challenging his father's penalty minute marks, Max's 60 points in 43 games this year shows that he inflicts pain on the opposition in quite a different manner.
Cole Cassels of the Oshawa Generals may not be as productive as Domi or Rychel, but he also shares their NHL background. A member of Team Cherry, Cassels' father is Andrew Cassels, a noted playmaker who saw action in over 1000 NHL games with most of his success coming as a member of the Hartford Whalers and the Vancouver Canucks.
At first glance, one might think that Anthony Mantha of the Val d'Or Foreurs is also the son of an NHL player. After all, Moe Mantha patrolled the blueline for the Winnipeg Jets and the Pittsburgh Penguins, among other teams during the 1980's and 1990's. But the Quebec-native Anthony is not related to the Ohio-born Moe.
Anthony notes that the confusion has come up a few times.
"Maybe not often, but a few people talk about him and I tell them we're not related."
Despite the mistaken identity, Mantha does have his own family connection with the NHL through his grandfather, Andre Pronovost. Through the 1950's and '60's, Pronovost played over 550 NHL games, including winning four Stanley Cups as a member of the Montreal Canadiens and playing in four NHL All-Star Games.
Mantha is ever thankful for the impact that his grandfather has had on his career so far.
"He had a huge effect on me when I was young, he taught me how to skate, how to play hockey and how to have fun."
Other family bloodlines at the Top Prospects Game include Jordan Subban, a defenseman who plays with one of his brothers on the Belleville Bulls and has another brother who currently plays in the NHL. Injured goaltender Eric Comrie will not be playing at the Top Prospects Game, but the Tri-City American has two brothers who made it all the way to the NHL.
Outside of NHL connections, Oliver Bjorkstrand of the Portland Winterhawks is a native of Denmark and his father is now a notable coach in his home country after a lengthy pro hockey career, including some minor league experience in North America during the 1980's.
Expanding the bloodlines network even further, we find more players with family links to pro sports.
Leading that list is Seth Jones, a defenseman for the Portland Winterhawks and son of former NBA player, Popeye Jones. His father played for six NBA teams over the course of his 11-year career and is currently the assistant coach for the Brooklyn Nets.
Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds defender Darnell Nurse also grew up in a sports-heavy household. His father played in the Canadian Football League, while his mother and sisters are accomplished basketball players. Meanwhile, his aunt, who is also a notable basketball player, is married to former NFL quarterback, Donovan McNabb.
Finally, Kitchener Rangers right winger Justin Bailey is the son of former NFL linebacker Carlton Bailey and Quebec Remparts left winger Anthony Duclair's uncle, Farell Duclair, played in the CFL.
Although coming from a family with a professional sports background certainly does not guarantee a future in pro sports for a young player, it does provide an advantage for the player and his family to have a better understanding of the dedication and sacrifices required to make the jump to a pro career.
Follow Kevin Forbes on Twitter via @kforbesy