What’s in a name? Plenty, when Sabres draft son of former captain Mike Foligno

By John Wawrow, AP
Saturday, June 27, 2009

Sabres draft son of former captain Mike Foligno

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Marcus Foligno vividly recalls attending the on-ice ceremony when his father, Mike, was inducted into the Buffalo Sabres’ Hall of Fame.

Little did the youngster realize then that some four years later he’d earn an opportunity to build on the family legacy in Buffalo. Foligno, the youngest son of the popular former Sabres captain, will get that chance after Buffalo selected him in the fourth round, 104th overall, in the NHL draft on Saturday.

“This is awesome. It just worked out perfect,” Foligno said by phone from the draft in Montreal. “It seemed like it was meant to be.”

Only time will tell whether he can come anywhere close to matching his father’s accomplishments.

Mike Foligno spent 10 of his 15 NHL seasons with the Sabres and became a fan favorite for his rugged and offensive style. He ranks sixth on Buffalo’s list with 247 career goals, eighth in career points (511) and second with 1,450 penalty minutes.

“Just knowing what my dad has done in Buffalo is something that’s pretty big, and I hope to do as well as he,” the younger Foligno said. “I’m looking forward to going to Buffalo and seeing what I can do to make my own shoes.”

Foligno has begun making an impression after his second season playing for the Ontario Hockey League’s Sudbury Wolves, a team that happens to be coached by his father.

Listed at 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, the feisty forward had 30 points (12 goals, 18 assists) and 96 penalty minutes in 65 games last season. At 17, he’s expected to require a few more years to develop.

Mike Foligno couldn’t be more proud, especially after watching his son pull on the Sabres jersey at the team’s draft table.

“It’s beautiful. I’m very ecstatic right now. It’s such an incredible thing to happen,” said Foligno, who also played for Detroit, Toronto and Florida. “The memories that flashed through your mind as soon as he was selected. … You just can’t say any words of what it means to us.”

As for his son’s potential, Foligno noted that Marcus is still growing and developing.

“I can only imagine what the upside is,” Foligno said. “I just hope that someday he gets the opportunity to help the Buffalo Sabres accomplish their goal by winning the Stanley Cup.”

Marcus also has a chance to follow his brother into the NHL. Nick Foligno was selected by Ottawa in the first round of the 2006 draft and, completed his rookie season with the Senators last year.

The Sabres entered the draft with a philosophy to add players with size and grit, which is one of the reasons Foligno was on their radar.

“We didn’t draft him just because his name was Foligno,” said Kevin Devine, Sabres director of amateur scouting. “His name could’ve been Smith, and we would’ve taken him.”

The last name did play a factor, though.

“I like to bet on character. I like to bet on genes,” Devine added. “Everything just pointed to him. And then the fact that the name is Foligno was a bonus.”

Buffalo opened the draft by selecting rugged right wing Zack Kassian in the first round on Friday. The Sabres, who didn’t have a second-round pick, then opened Saturday’s portion of the draft by selecting 6-foot-4 defenseman Brayden McNabb, who plays for Kootenay of the Western Hockey League.

Buffalo rounded out the draft by selecting defenseman Mark Adams, who played last season with Boston’s Malden Catholic High School, in the fifth round; Miami University goalie Connor Knapp in the sixth round; and forward Maxime Legault (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Shawinigan) in the seventh.

For Marcus Foligno, he was growing frustrated as each selection passed without his name being called. Being chosen by Buffalo proved to be worth the wait.

“In the end, I totally regret getting mad,” he said. “I’m all smiles. And all the rounds that went by just lit a fire under me to work that much harder and get to the NHL as quickly as I can.”

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