Kienan Draper is ready to follow in his dad’s footsteps
At left, Kris Draper towers over son Kienan at Comerica Park in December 2012. Comerica was the site of the NHL Old-Timers Game that was part of the Winter Classic weekend when the Detroit played Toronto at Michigan Stadium on Jan. 1, 2013. At right, the roles are reversed in March 2019 when the Drapers’ Little Caesars team won the U16 AAA Tier 1 state championship.
The Red Wings knew very well the potential pitfalls of drafting the son of a member of the organization or a former player – in this case, both. So they approached the issue quite carefully.
The player in question was, of course, Kienan Draper, the son of the former Wing Kris Draper, who is now the team’s director of amateur scouting. Detroit took the younger Draper in the seventh and final round of the NHL draft Oct. 7, with the 187th overall selection.
“As you start talking about these players, I want to hear our area scouts start talking about names, and Kienan’s name came up,” Kris Draper told the Detroit News.
“Then it just felt like it was the right pick for our organization. That’s how it really came about. Obviously, I’m super proud, very excited. But my job is to draft prospects that I feel are going to be a part of the Detroit Red Wings organization going forward.”
At 18, the 6-foot-1 Kienan, a right wing, is already taller than his dad, and, at 185 pounds, he’s within 10 pounds of his dad’s highest NHL-listed playing weight.
Kris Draper and GM Steve Yzerman had a conversation about potentially drafting Kienan.
“A couple of scouts, one in Ontario who followed Kienan at St. Andrew’s College (in Aurora, Ontario) last year and one of our scouts in the West who was following him in Chilliwack, they were pushing pretty hard” to draft him, Yzerman said. “Kris and I had a brief conversation about it recently, and initially I said, ‘Are you sure you want to put your son in that position?’
“Then, ultimately, my answer to him was, ‘Your obligation is to do whatever is the right thing for the Detroit Red Wings, and I trust your judgment.’ And I know that he did that.”
He added: “None of them (scouts) are going to pick a name just because it’s somebody’s son or friend. Jobs are on the line.”
After coming up through the age divisions playing AAA for Little Caesars and being coached by his father, Kienan had 25 goals and 51 points in 56 games for St. Andrew’s last season.
This year he is with the Chilliwack Chiefs of the British Columbia Junior Hockey League and has had four goals and an assist in five games.
He and his father talked about the possibility of being drafted by the Red Wings.
“I’m very driven,” said Kienan, who’ll play at Miami (Ohio) next year. “I want to make it a reality to be able to put that sweater on and wear the winged wheel. It’s something I’ve been dreaming of since I was 4 or 5 years old.
“So, now that Step One has been done and completed, I’m ready to keep working hard and make it come true.”
Of course, Kris swells with pride about his son potentially also wearing the winged wheel on his chest.
“I’m proud of him, I’m proud of the work that he’s put in,” he said. “I believe in Kienan, and, just as importantly, guys on our staff believed in him as well. That’s how we ended up making that selection.
“He’s continued to get better. He earned his position on our draft list by continuing to get better.”
And if Kienan takes anything from watching his father’s career, it is the necessity of putting in the work.
“As a hockey player, I see his work ethic,” Kienan said. “Even after his career, he still works so hard at everything he does. During his career, just seeing what type of person he was, he always had time for fans, and was just a hard worker on the ice and a great teammate.
“I learned a lot from him over the years and through other teammates he had.”