Nick Luukko, the Flyers' sixth-round draft pick, out to prove he's more than just the boss' son

Defenseman Nick Luukko (standing) polices his slot in drills at a developmental camp at the Flyers Skate Zone.
Defenseman Nick Luukko (standing) polices his slot in drills at a developmental camp at the Flyers Skate Zone. (CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer)
Posted: July 11, 2011

Nick Luukko was only 5 years old, but he'd been around long enough to know where his hockey loyalties lay. That's why he was wearing a long face when he and 29 other children were handed jerseys to wear during a ceremony for the World Cup of Hockey in 1996 at what was then the spanking new CoreStates Center.

"They gave me a Devils jersey, and I didn't want to wear it," Luukko said with a smile Thursday after the second day of workouts at the Flyers' prospect camp at the Skate Zone in Voorhees. "I remember my dad got Eric Lindros to come over and tell me it was all right to wear it because it would only be for a few minutes."

The father had no problem getting Lindros to shake his son out of his funk. At the time, Peter Luukko was president of the Spectrum. Now, he is president and chief operating officer of Comcast-Spectacor, the parent company of the Flyers.

"My dad taught me how to skate at the Spectrum," Nick said. "The Spectrum, and then the [Wells Fargo] Center were my second homes."

Nick, 19, is among 41 prospects huffing and puffing through drills and workouts at a training camp that ends Monday. He is more familiar with the surroundings than the other 40 because he has spent most of his life rubbing elbows with Flyers players, front-office workers, and the clubhouse attendants.

But he's not here because his father handed him the keys to the place. He's here because the Flyers own his rights - they picked the 6-foot-2, 180-pound defenseman in the sixth round (No. 179 overall) in the 2010 amateur draft. This is his second prospects camp.

"I'm learning how to play like a pro and how to work out like a pro," he said. "They're trying to help us get to the next level."

Luukko's first season playing at the junior level couldn't have gone much better. He helped the Dubuque Fighting Saints win the Clark Cup, symbol of supremacy in the United States Hockey League, the top junior league in the nation. He had five points, including three power-play assists, and was plus-5 in 11 playoff games. The team is coached by former Flyer Jim Montgomery.

Watching his son celebrate around the Clark Cup gave Peter Luukko some relief from the disappointment of the Flyers' second-round elimination by Boston in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

"It gave him someone to root for after the Flyers lost," Nick said.

Even though much of Peter Luukko's time is consumed by his chores with Comcast-Spectacor, he and Nick have developed a strong bond through hockey, spending countless hours together on trips to tournaments throughout the United States and Canada as well as Russia and Germany.

Nick, who grew up in West Chester, spent his junior and senior years of high school at The Gunnery, a boarding school in Washington, Conn., with a strong hockey program. He previously played at Malvern Prep.

He said he was on the beach in Avalon the day the Flyers drafted him.

"I was just hanging out, and I checked the computer just to see what was going on and saw I got drafted. I was a little shocked. I didn't expect it," Luukko said. "Obviously, it was an honor, something you can never forget and something you can take with you the rest of your life."

He admitted there have been times when he's felt "a little awkward" around other players who know his father is such an important figure in the Flyers organization.

"But most guys understand," he said. "As you go to the next level, it's just a business. You see it around the league all the time. You have the Sutters in Calgary. It's not that big of a deal, and, to be honest with you, there's no other team I'd rather play for, growing up a Flyers fan."

As for his chances of someday pulling on the only hockey jersey he's ever wanted to wear - a Flyers jersey - Luukko said all he can do is work hard and continue to improve to realize his dream. In the fall, he'll attend the University of Vermont.

"If for some reason they wanted to sign me, I could leave school," he said. "But I can go for all four years and sign after that, so there's no rush for me. I'm just going to keep working at it, and hopefully I'll get an opportunity. If I continue to develop and play well, maybe it'll happen."


Contact staff writer Ray Parrillo at 215-854-2743 or rparrillo@phillynews.com.

 

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