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By John McGourty | | June 25, 2006

VANCOUVER -- John Muckler, the general manager of the Ottawa Senators, walked to the podium at Saturday's 2006 Entry Draft and announced that his team was using its first-round pick, 28th overall, to select Sudbury Wolves left winger Nick Foligno, the son of former first-round pick Mike Foligno, a hard-nosed NHL hockey player from 1979-94 with the Detroit Red Wings, Buffalo Sabres, Toronto Maple Leafs and Florida Panthers.

One veteran scout turned to another on the arena floor and said, "Ottawa just got tougher."

Apples don't fall far from the tree, John?

"Yeah, that's got something to do with it," Muckler agreed. "Good bloodlines. Dad played in the NHL for many years and had a great career. Nick plays somewhat similar to his father with a lot of heart and grit. That's something that we were looking for."

The scouts agree. The report on Foligno reads: "a solid skater with good balance who has good hands and can handle the puck well in traffic ... is an excellent passer, very good at making saucer passes on the forehand or backhand ... he is an unselfish playmaking forward who is heady with the puck and is always looking to set up teammates and has been used on the power play unit this season with good success ... a gritty, hard working, and aggressive up and down winger who gives a solid effort each game ... is responsible defensively ... a good penalty killer who keeps an active stick in the passing lanes and has often stripped opponents of the puck, creating an offensive scoring chance ... goes hard to the net, battles hard in front and is tough to move ... most of his goals come from hard work, getting to rebounds and loose pucks in front."

After Mike Foligno retired, he spent a season first as the assistant and then the head coach of the St. John's Maple Leafs and was promoted to assistant coach in Toronto. He then spent a year as an assistant coach with the Colorado Avalanche and five years as the head coach of the AHL Hershey Bears. Then, he looked homeward.

Mike Foligno grew up in Sudbury, Ontario, home of the OHL Sudbury Wolves. He was one of the team's greatest stars, before his NHL playing days.

Sudbury is a mining town, People work hard and they appreciate players who work hard. Year in, year out, regardless of roster names, the Wolves set out to satisfy a crowd that knows hockey and likes to see tough young men carry on the tradition. Following every home goal, a wolf mounted on a wire flies across the rink, accompanied by a wolf howl. That's Sudbury hockey and the Folignos have long been a part of it: It's freezing inside and out, it hurts to be on the opposing team, the wolf howls and the fans do too. Mike Foligno came out of that tradition, had a great NHL career and returned to add the Sudbury finishing touch to his son and many other good hockey players, including Marc Staal, Benoit Pouliot and Patrick Ehelechner.

"It's a good tradition, coming out of Sudbury," Muckler said. "I saw Nick play on the Top Prospects team in Ottawa. I liked what he did. He played very well that night. He was sitting there at the 28th spot and we feel fortunate to get him."

Nick saw a lot of hockey and a lot of hockey players in his Dad's travels and he benefited in many ways and many places. He appreciates going "home" to Sudbury and gaining that viewpoint.

"I was moving around a lot because my father was changing jobs," Nick said. "I spent the majority of my adolescence in Hershey, where I started to take hockey pretty seriously. I went to Ann Arbor from there with the U.S. National Talent Development Program.

"I played for the Hershey Jr. Bears for a while and the Central Penn Panthers in the Jr. B League. I also played high school. Tim Tookey was one of my coaches and Mike Cleveland (now hockey director in York, Pa.) and they helped me very, very much. I thought Tim Tookey's knowledge of the game was instrumental for me moving through hockey and learning the ropes at such a young age. If you watched the way he played, you know it helped to have him guiding me.

"I got invited to Ann Arbor and played for Dave Quinn on the U.S. National team with Phil Kessel, Peter Mueller, Ryan Stiller, Jack Skille and Jack Johnson, so we had a great team. It was a lot of fun playing with those guys and I learned to be a better player."

Foligno played in modern indoor rinks in Pennsylvania but he also remembers the charm of the old outdoor rink at the Milton Hershey School, endowed by the founder of the chocolate company. He played some pickup games there and retains fond memories.

"Yeah, the outdoor rink at Milton Hershey School. That was a great rink, with the open sides and the roof on top. I loved that rink," he said.

Mike Foligno, who went third overall in the 1979 draft, was beaming all afternoon after his son reached his goal of being a first-round pick.

"We're proud of Nick and everything he has accomplished throughout his career, so far," Mike said. "He's given himself the best opportunity to take the next step to make his dream of someday playing in the NHL.

"The key with any young player is to show improvement every year. Players who are rated high make great strides every year and that's one of the things Nick has done. He's played different roles and been in leadership situations. That pressure and development has been an upward moving scale for him and this year was no exception.

"He took on a leadership role when Marc Staal and Benoit Pouliot were at the World Juniors. He accepted the role well and excelled and showed everyone he could assume that role. He was mature enough.

"Good players can do that and make players around them play at a higher level. He's been able to do that over the course of the last few years. The time spent in Colorado, he had the opportunity to observe some of the best players in the world, Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg, on a game-by-game basis.

"In Hershey, they went to the PeeWee tournament in Quebec and won the world championship. He's been a winner at every level and hopefully he'll keep taking those steps you need to take."

Nick was anything but pushed into hockey by his Dad. Mike Foligno's biggest admirer, and he has many, is his son.

"I picked up my Dad's love and respect for the game," Nick said. "They kept him in the League so long because he loved the game and I try to take that with me every time I step on the ice. I learned a lot of great things from my Dad but that's what influenced me the most.

"I also learned to cope with that style of play," Nick said. "I welcome it and I don't shy away from it."

"I like to win and I want to win," Nick said. "I'm looking to bringing a winning attitude and a hard-working style of play. If they give me a chance, I'll definitely bring that to them."
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