05/19/2012 03:15 EDT | Updated 07/19/2012 05:12 EDT

Knight's big defenceman Tinordi looks to follow father Mark to NHL career

SHAWINIGAN, Que. - Jarred Tinordi had no idea how lucky he was hanging around an NHL rink as a little kid while his father Mark played for the Washington Capitals.

But the towering London Knights defenceman has no doubt that having a dad who played 12 big league seasons was a huge help in his own development as top NHL prospect.

"I think it's an advantage for me personally because it's someone close, that I know on a personal level, helping me out, who's not a coach," Tinordi said Saturday as the Knights prepared to play their first game at the MasterCard Memorial Cup against the defending champion Saint John Sea Dogs. "He's a father and a player, so that helped me a lot growing up.

"I remember when I was a kid going to the practice rink in Washington and seeing all the guys, meeting all the players. We'd always be in the locker-room during practice. It was fun. You don't really know when you're that age what it means, but looking back on it, it was a pretty good experience."

Tinordi was seven when his father retired in 1999 after a 663-game career that started with the New York Rangers in 1987. Mark Tinordi played most of his career with the Minnesota North Stars and was captain when that club moved to Dallas. He joined the Capitals in 1994. The Red Deer, Alta. native also played in the 1991 Canada Cup.

Jarred Tinordi is one of seven players at the Memorial Cup with NHL fathers, including his London teammate Max Domi, whose father Tie Domi scored goals and pounded heads for three teams from 1989 to 2006, the last 11 years with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Edmonton Oil Kings have four players whose fathers were NHLers, including defenceman Keegan Lowe whose dad Kevin played 1,037 games for the Oilers and is now president of the NHL club.

Centre Henrik Samuelsson, who scored the game-winner as the Oil Kings beat Shawinigan 4-3 in the tournament opener, is the son of former NHL blueliner Ulf Samuelsson.

Griffin Reinhart is the son of former Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks defenceman Paul Reinhart, while Michael St. Croix's dad is former NHL goalie Rick St. St. Croix.

Shawinigan defenceman Dillon Donnelly's dad is rugged former Quebec Nordique and Winnipeg Jet Gord Donnelly. The pugilistic gene was clearly passed on as Dillon got into the first fight of the Memorial Cup against Edmonton's Mitchell Moroz.

The six-foot-seven, 218-pound Tinordi was drafted 22nd overall by the Montreal Canadiens in 2010, which is a step ahead of his father, who was not drafted. He can now give valuable advice to his son.

"He was a big guy like me," said Tinordi. "The main thing for us (big defencemen) is to keep it simple.

"You don't want to get to complicated with the puck. When we're simple and make smart plays, a good first pass, then good things happen."

Tinordi grew up near Washington, D.C., where his father ran a hockey program, and played at the world junior championship for the United States. However, he turned down a chance to play college hockey at Notre Dame to join the Knights, a top Ontario Hockey League club run by brothers Dale and Mark Hunter.

In his first season in 2010-11, he had one goal and was minus-8 in 63 games, but he took a step forward this season with two goals and a plus-39 in 48 regular season games. Then he had three goals in 19 playoff games.

"He's always been strong defensively and his offensive game has started to turn around," said Knights coach Mark Hunter. "He got some goals and points in the playoffs.

"His leadership's always been there. I just think he needs some strength, and when he's 230 (pounds), the Montreal Canadiens will love him."

Tinordi is a surprisingly good skater for his size, but it remains to be seen if, like extra-sized NHL defencemen before him, he can become more like the two-way Zdeno Chara or the ultra-defensive Hal Gill, who he got to work with at the Canadiens training camp.

"I'm trying to find a good mix between the two," said Tinordi. "I know Hal from my time in Montreal and he was a great mentor to me.

"He's a great guy to learn from. He's won Stanley Cups. And I've worked on my offensive game more."