London Knights season preview

By Jason Ahrens

The London Knights will be hosting the 2005 Memorial Cup and they a favorite this season. The team has a pair of NHL first round selections, Corey Perry (Anaheim 2003) and Rob Schremp (Edmonton 2004) up front to lead their scoring attack. These two forwards have the potential to score 100 plus goals between them and they have a good supporting cast on a team that has nine other NHL draftees. The Knights do not have many prospects for the 2005 NHL draft, if one is even held. This will likely be the end of a three-year streak of first round selections from the team that started with Rick Nash going first overall to Columbus in 2002.

Perry has the potential to dominate the OHL this season. This will be his fourth year in the league and the 6’3 195-pound right wing has improved each season. He gets a lot of ice time on this strong London team and should easily average two points a game. If Perry stays healthy and plays at the level he is capable of, he has a good chance at being named the OHL player of the year.

After a season that was bittersweet for Perry, he has a lot of unfinished business in this, his last season in the OHL. He was the last cut from Team Canada for the 2004 World Junior tournament and if he doesn’t make the team this year it would raise some eyebrows. A trip to the World Junior tournament might deny him the shot at the scoring title this season, however. Perry finished second in scoring in the OHL last season and was in contention right up to the final week before Cory Locke (Mon) surged ahead.

Perry will be looking to improve his playoff performance this year as well. He started the 2004 playoffs like he finished in 2003, with strong play and putting a lot of points on the board, but then hit the conference final against Guelph and things derailed from there.

Schremp’s 2003-04 season was far more bitter than sweet. The 2003 OHL rookie of the year asked for a trade from the Mississauga Ice Dogs and was traded to London. He arrived with great expectations but never seemed to find a line that he had chemistry with. He put up good points on the power play and vastly improved his plus/minus from the previous year, but there were many nights when he didn’t create much offense at even strength. He scored some highlight reel goals during the course of the season and probably played his best game of the season at the CHL Top Prospects game where he was named the player of the game for his team.

Schremp had a good start to the 2004 playoffs and was putting up some points on the road, but seemed to have trouble finishing at home. He was also moved to right wing for the first time in his career. In the conference finals after falling behind 3 games to 1, Coach Dale Hunter went with only three set lines, with Schremp relegated to the fourth line. He saw only power play duty for the rest of the series with the exception of a few shifts late in game 7 when London was desperate for a goal. He’ll look to improve his playoff role and performance this season as well.

Taken at 25th overall by Edmonton in the NHL Entry Draft this summer, Schremp he has big league hands, but below average speed. There is also the question on whether this offensive artist will be able to learn the defensive aspects of professional hockey, like chipping the puck off of the glass, dump and chase games, the trap etc. Like Perry, he was disappointed to miss out on the 2004 World Junior tournament, and with it being held on American soil this Christmas it would mean a lot for him to be named to the American team.

Forward Brandon Prust was selected in the third round by Calgary in the 2004 draft, remarkably high for a player who had been passed over in two previous drafts. Prust made the Knights as a walk on player in 2002-03 and constantly elevated his play over the next two seasons. In 2003-04 the 5’11 191-pounder showed good hockey sense, led the OHL in short handed goals and was a big reason behind the Knights top ranked penalty kill unit. Prust was no stranger to the box as he stuck up for his teammates and took on all comers and earned a reputation as one of the best fighters in the league. On a team that is known for their work ethic, Prust is perhaps the hardest working player on the team. He is back for an over age season and was named as one of the alternate captains of the team this season. A small Knights team will greatly benefit from his strength in the corners where he does a great job at shielding the puck from defenders and buying time for teammates to get open. With the graduation of former captain Danny Bois to the Ottawa Senators organization, Prust may be called on to fight even more this season, but the team has added a couple of gritty wingers via trade to take some of that pressure off of him.

Dave Bolland was selected in the second round by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2004 draft. This will be the third season in the OHL for the speedy forward. His first season saw the rookie relegated to the fourth line where he saw only a few shifts a game. He was played more late in the season and in the playoffs and starting showing flashes of his potential. Bolland started his second season strongly and was on pace to score over 50 goals. He had a weaker second half, slowed by nagging injuries and perhaps even fatigue and didn’t fare well in the playoffs. The poor finish to the season may have led to his sliding out of the first round of the draft, but the Blackhawks weren’t complaining that he was available.

Bolland who is just under 6’0 and just over 170 pounds, plays a gritty game for a small forward; he finishes his checks, and goes into the corners and slot with no fear. He has above average speed and a heavy shot. He wasn’t a regular on the power play but put up good numbers last season. He was a regular on the strong penalty-killing unit. This season Bolland has to show that he can maintain the pace that he started last season and not wear down as the season goes on. He was invited to the Canadian junior team evaluation camp in August and a good start is imperative for him to be invited to the main camp in December.

Trever Kell was selected in the fifth round of the 2004 NHL draft by the Chicago Blackhawks. Kell is very similar to Bolland, a smallish and speedy forward who plays the game with a bit of sandpaper. He is an excellent penalty killer and uses his speed to cause turnovers. Like Bolland, Kell was broken in slowly in his rookie season, but was used a lot down the stretch run and had an excellent playoff series against Windsor in the first round. Kell will bring one intangible to the Blackhawk organization, he doesn’t have much experience losing games. The Thunder Bay native spent the 2002-03 season with a powerhouse Wellington Dukes team in the Junior A level, and last season with the first place Knights. With more playing time in store for Kell this season the Blackhawks will be looking to see how much his offensive production increases from the 23 points he posted as a rookie.

Alexei Ivanov is the third Chicago draftee on the Knights. He was taken in the fifth round in the 2003 NHL draft. Standing 5’9 and 175 pounds, he is one of the smallest Knights. The native of Russia is in his first season in the OHL and the 19-year-old center has shown the potential to be an impact player in this league. He is a strong skater who can make dazzling cuts and shows flashes of skill that is reminiscent of Sergei Samsonov. He has shown good defensive awareness and sticks with his man in the defending zone.

Marc Methot is entering his third season in the OHL and the 225-pound defenseman will be seeing a lot of ice time this season. The Columbus Blue Jackets selected him in the sixth round of the 2003 NHL draft. Methot is a defensive defenseman who does a good job in his own end at taking away lanes from the attacking forwards and forcing them to the boards where he uses his size to wrap them up and contain them. He has been lacking a mean streak in the past, but if the opening weekend is any indication, that may have changed, and life just got a whole lot more difficult for any forwards who want to spend time in front of the London goal. He struggled last season with his awareness of where he was when handling the puck. Quite often he would drift behind his blue line while in the neutral zone and when he passed the puck that would cause the pass to be offside. He has to be a bit more assertive with the puck and be aware of his feet and make the good crisp pass to start the transition game.

Dylan Hunter is entering his fourth OHL season and Buffalo selected the son of Dale Hunter in the ninth round in 2004. Hunter was named to the OHL third team all star in the left wing position last season after posting 79 points in 64 games. It was quite the turn around for the forward, as he had a dreadful sophomore season and was overweight and lethargic for most of the season. A hard summer working out paid huge dividends for him and he spent most of the season on the first line with Perry and did a good job on the power play. Hunter is a good passer and stick handles the puck well, but has below average wheels and shot, which will likely be a detriment to him playing at a high level of professional hockey.

Frank Rediker had a miserable season with injuries last season, only seeing action in 25 games. Rediker will not be able to play until sometime in November or December this season and with the Knights hosting the Memorial Cup, they will not be rushing him too early, they will want to ensure that he is fully recovered. When he does suit up, he plays a solid two way game on the point. Rediker, selected in the fourth round of the 2003 draft by Boston, is a good skater and handles the puck nicely. He is just an average sized defenseman but he throws his weight around and isn’t scared to drop the gloves when the need arises. He will be in the Knights top four on defense and once he shakes the injury bug, he is a solid professional prospect.

Ryan Pottruff will miss the better part of the first two months of the OHL season after suffering a leg injury in a preseason game. The 6’2 210-pound defenseman was taken by Carolina in the seventh round in the 2004 draft. He played 51 games as a rookie last season with the Knights and spent some of that time at forward. On a small team the Knights were hoping he would play a big role as he doesn’t shy away from the physical play. He may continue to see his ice time split between defense and right wing when he returns to action and he may be better suited to play up front in the long haul.

Gerald Coleman is back for his third season with the Knights and the Tampa Bay draftee will likely once again split the goaltending duties with fellow 19-year-old goalie Ryan MacDonald. Coleman improved a lot in his sophomore season in the league and showed signs of taking the reins as the No. 1 goalie. A fluke injury in practice seemed to knock him out of the zone he was in, but he started the playoffs with a 3-0 run before the coaching staff decided to shuffle the goalies. He only played in one game in the second round and split the ice time in the third round loss to Guelph, though he may have been nursing a knee injury. At 6’4 Coleman covers a lot of net and relies on size and positioning instead of reflexes to stop the puck. He has improved his puck handling but it still needs work. He had a habit of letting in the odd soft goal, but he seemed to erase that from his game as the season wore on.

Copyright 2004 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.