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CHICAGO – Tyler Inamoto talks about playing hockey the right way.

Florida Panthers draftee Tyler Inamoto (Photo/Len Redkoles).

He also talks about playing it the Samurai way.

“Hockey is a lot of courage and passion and a lot of integrity,” said Inamoto, a defenseman for the USA Hockey National Development Team. “The principles of the Samurai code is pretty applicable to hockey.”

Inamoto hopes to employ the code playing for the Florida Panthers, which took the 6-foot-2 defenseman in the fifth round with the 133rd overall pick in the 2017 National Hockey League Draft in Chicago Saturday.

 

“I was just honored to be picked by the Florida Panthers and look forward to the opportunity to play for them some day,” said Inamoto, who grew up in the Chicago area.

However, Inamoto won’t be suiting up for the Panthers soon. He’ll start playing for the University of Wisconsin and head coach Tony Granato this fall. NHL Central Scouting ranked Inamoto as the 68th-best North American skater eligible for the draft.

Granato calls him a big, mean defenseman whom he expects to contribute to the Badgers almost immediately.

“He’ll be a physical impact player right away next year,” Granato said.

 

Inamoto joins a growing list of players of Asian heritage who were drafted in this weekend’s draft and previous NHL drafts in recent years.

Inamoto is of Japanese descent and learned a lot about his heritage – including the Samurai code – from his grandfather, Fujio Inamoto, who was placed in a British Columbia internment camp during World War II. He passed away in 2014.

“He taught me a lot about hard work and perseverance, as well, because coming out of internment camp, he had to work hard to support the family since he lost all (his) land,” the younger Inamoto told The Chicago Tribune. “…And he persevered through all that. I learned a lot from him.”

They are lessons that he doesn’t take lightly. He hopes to make history by becoming one of the few players of Japanese heritage to reach the NHL.

“It’s a big deal – there aren’t too many Japanese hockey players out there,” said Inamoto, who was born in New Jersey but raised in suburban Chicago. “So if I can be an influence to some of those guys growing up and inspire them to play hockey, I definitely take that very seriously and I’ll do my best to be a good role model to them.”

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