BUFFALO, N.Y. — If Keith Primeau had his way, his son Cayden would've learned how to skate and the basics of the game before making a decision to play goal. However, from a young age, Cayden Primeau insisted he'd don the pads and tend the net, a decision he doesn't regret today.
"He was pretty hesitant at first," Cayden Primeau recalled at the recent NHL Scouting Combine. "I was just relentless and persistent — he just finally caved in and I've stuck with it ever since."
A veteran of 15 NHL seasons, including parts of six in Philly, Keith Primeau was outnumbered when it came to his youngest son's wishes to be a goalie.
"I was of the mindset that you need to learn to skate and play the game a little bit first," the former Flyers captain said. "Then if you still have an interest in playing goal, then you could play goal.
"But right from Day 1 he wanted to be a goaltender and at my wife's wishes and against my better judgment, I allowed him to put pads on. Right from the first day, he was able to stop a puck, too, so there wasn't much chance I was going to get him out of the net."
As Cayden Primeau prepares to take the next step in his hockey career — the 17-year-old is the sixth-ranked goaltender in ISS Hockey's 2017 draft guide — Keith Primeau still doesn't know where the passion for the position came from.
"Right from the beginning, he wanted to play goal. It wasn't like at the time he was watching Brian Boucher and saying, 'I want to emulate Brian Boucher,'" said Keith Primeau, whose younger brother, Wayne Primeau, also enjoyed a lengthy career as a center in the NHL. "I did some television work a few years ago and I was asking Marty Turco and Kevin Weeks — they were sitting on the panel with me — I'm a player, I know how to train as a player, I don't know goalie-specific stuff and so he's been able to lean on other people who are goaltenders or of that profession."
Born in Voorhees, New Jersey, Cayden Primeau spent this past season playing for the Lincoln Stars of the USHL, where he posted a 14-11-1 record to go along with a 3.16 goals-against average and an .895 save percentage.
The 6-foot-1, 186-pound puck stopper is a butterfly-style goaltender that moves well and does a good job of using his edges.
Scouts say Primeau has very good hockey sense and feel for the game. He plays his angles well and tracks the puck through traffic well.
"Tall, lanky goalie with long limbs — has trouble catching with his glove," ISS Hockey scout Brent Parker said. "Strong post-to-post. When playing paddle down, he maintains good size and positioning.
"Rebound control was poor on his blocker side with both blocker and pads. Good balance in both the stand-up and butterfly positions. Plays at the top of his crease. Plays angles well and good overall positioning. Lots of upside."
With his dad being a member of the Flyers, Primeau said he often watched Steve Mason closely, but when it comes to modeling his game, he tries to emulate Nashville Predators netminder Pekka Rinne.
"Always trying to take things from him and try to implement them into my own game," Primeau said. "I like to do that with a bunch of other goalies, but my favorite is probably Pekka Rinne.
"I like that he uses his athleticism to his advantage, I like how he's aggressive and makes it challenging for shooters."
Primeau hopes to one day follow his dad's footsteps to the NHL, but he won't be taking the same route. Keith Primeau spent three seasons in the Ontario Hockey League before turning pro during the 1990-91 season.
The OHL's Mississauga Steelheads own Cayden Primeau's rights, but he's chosen to go the college route and will spend next season at Northeastern.
"College hockey in Boston, hockey alone in Boston, is just one thing in itself and then when I started talking to Northeastern, I went to visit the campus, it was beautiful and I loved it, so I felt like it was the right fit," said Cayden, whose cousin, Mason Primeau, recently committed to the OHL's Guelph Storm.
"Obviously the OHL is a great route, but for me personally, I believe college is the best route."
Primeau will have a familiar face on the team next season as Nolan Stevens, the son of former Flyers coach John Stevens, is expected to return for a fourth season with the Huskies.
Keith Primeau was the third overall selection of the Detroit Red Wings 27 years ago — an experience he remembers like it was yesterday. Waiting for his name to be called at BC Place Stadium, Primeau was certain he was going to the Vancouver Canucks.
"I knew that Quebec was going to take Owen Nolan and just from my conversations with Pat Quinn, I felt real strongly that I was going to Vancouver," Primeau recalled of his discussions with the late Flyers coach.
"I guess that's the one variable that you can't control. Until your name is called, everybody sits there anxiously waiting for that moment. It's exciting, but at the same time, nerve-racking."
The Flyers have selected four goaltenders over the past two NHL drafts, including Carter Hart in the second round (48th overall) last year, so the chances Cayden ends up with the Flyers are likely slim, but Keith's advice for his son heading into the draft June 23-24 in Chicago is simple.
"We all know this is just the first step," Keith said. "There's a long road to go, the work begins after the draft. Just enjoy the experience. Don't get caught up too much in where you're drafted, be excited about where you go and be ready to just take on the next challenge."