London Knights Memorial Cup review

By Jason Ahrens

The London Knights capped off a dream season with a perfect Memorial Cup, going 4 and 0 to win their first ever championship in their 40 years as a franchise.

The Knights seemed to get stronger every game and were only tested in the opener against the Rimouski Oceanic, a game that they won 4-3 in overtime but dominated in shots and time of possession. They easily handled a tired Kelowna Rockets team 4-2 in their second game, and beat the Ottawa 67s for the seventh time this season, 5-2 in the final game of the round robin, earning them a berth in the finals. They knocked off Rimouski 4-0 in the final game, holding the big line of the Oceanic off the scoresheet and dominating all aspects of the game.

The Knights didn’t have to play any back to back games in the tournament and with their depth they were well rested and wore teams out. TV timeouts helped London go with basically four defensemen all tournament.

Here is a look at how London’s NHL draftees performed as well as their prospects for future NHL drafts.

Corey Perry (ANA) had four goals and three assists and was named the MVP of the tournament, capping off a perfect season. The slick right winger scored the tying goal in the crucial first game against Rimouski on a great individual effort and he set up the game winner making a great cross-ice pass on a two-on-one break. He scored twice against Kelowna, breaking through the defense to score on the first and firing a power play slapshot from the point on the second. Perry took a lot of abuse from Ottawa but popped one goal and one assist. In the final game he was sucker punched on a line change after a whistle by Oceanic tough guy Eric Neilson (LA) that resulted in a five-on-three man advantage for London and led to their first goal and they never looked back. Later in the second period Perry was hit by an errant stick across the face and finished the game battered and bloody, but with one assist and a suspected concussion.

Danny Fritsche (CLB) played an outstanding tournament and could have very well been named the MVP himself. Fritsche was playing with banged up shoulders but he didn’t stop throwing his weight around and went full speed the entire time he was on the ice. He finished the tournament with six points. He scored a goal early in the second period against Rimouski when a penalty had just expired to get the Knights back in the game. Against Ottawa he answered some heavy hits on Perry by destroying a 67s player in the corner with a big hit that knocked the puck loose and led to a goal. He scored an insurance goal in the third period of that game, banging in a rebound after a great passing play on a Knight’s power play. In the final game he scored the game winner on a bad angle wrist shot that got the Knights rolling early in the game after the mugging on Perry. He was a big part of the second goal as he outraced a Rimouski defenseman to a loose puck and he took the hit to send the puck to a teammate and that play resulted in a goal.

Robbie Schremp (EDM) picked up one goal and had five assists in the tournament and ended up +4. He picked up two assists in the opening night win and he jumped on a turnover and passed the puck up to Perry to create the two on one on the game-winning goal in overtime. Schremp has one of the best shots in junior but he seemed to have an uncharacteristic lack of confidence when shooting in this tournament. He had plenty of opportunities but he couldn’t bury them. Two Knights goals did come as a result of rebounds from his shots and Schremp seemed to get his confidence back during the Ottawa game when he looked like his old self on the power play, it was no coincidence that was the night that the Knights had good results with the power play. In the final game, he played on a line with Perry and Fritsche that dominated every time they were on the ice, keeping all the momentum on the Knights side. He scored the last goal of the tournament, blasting a shot past the Oceanic goalie Cedrick Desjardins.

Dylan Hunter (BUF) had extra motivation in this tournament as he wanted to win a championship for his father and coach, Dale Hunter. Hunter was switched to a checking line in the later stages of the first game against Rimouski and helped shut down Crosby after he had picked up two points in the first period. Hunter and Schremp are the main cogs in the Knights power play and they had struggled late in the playoffs, which is why it sputtered a bit. Hunter had a bit more jump in his step in the final round robin game against Ottawa and came out with one goal and two assists and his goal was a great effort out of the corner to the net. In the final game, he played the entire game head to head against Crosby and won the majority of the faceoffs against that line. Hunter finished the tournament with one goal and four assists for five points.

Dave Bolland (CHI) had a strong two-way tournament and ended up with one goal and two assists. He made some nice passes in the Ottawa game that resulted in two London goals. He scored a big insurance goal in the final game that helped put the game out of reach by digging out a rebound, kicking it toward the net and getting his stick on it just before it crossed the line.

Trevor Kell (CHI) played in his usual checking role and faced the big line of Rimouski both times that London played them. He took a regular shift on the penalty kill and was effective. In the final game, his checking line actually created more chances than the big line during some stretches of the game. Kell had injured his hand in the third round of the playoffs and had just returned for the final game of the OHL finals.

Brandon Prust (CAL) played a defensive role in the series and after the first period of the opening game against Rimouski, he made sure that Crosby did not get much open ice and made his life extremely difficult. The entire checking line did an effective job, but it was Prust who had the job of sticking close to Crosby and getting under his skin. Prust used his speed to create some offensive chances and was effective along the boards all tournament. As usual he did a good job on the penalty kill. He showed a lot of restraint in the final game when Perry was sucker punched as he didn’t even try to go after Neilson, knowing that the Knights were going to go on a big power play and that his primary job was to shut down Crosby.

Marc Methot (CLB) had a brilliant opening night as he opened the scoring, picked up an assist on the tying goal and scored the winner in overtime. That matched his production for an entire playoff run. He also managed to nail Crosby hard twice and did an overall good job at containing the big line. He picked up one more assist in the tournament to finish with four points and finished +4. In the final game he saw a lot of the big line and was a big part of shutting down the Oceanic gunners. The Knights basically used four defensemen the entire tournament with only a couple of shifts given to their fifth defender and Methot played well, showing no signs of fatigue. As the only French-speaking member of the Knights he had a lot of extra media duty, especially after his big opening night.

Gerald Coleman (TB) played only in one game, against Ottawa, and he was solid in gaining a 5-2 win that clinched first place for London. Despite losing only two games in the regular season and his impressive statistics, it seemed that the coaching staff didn’t have the confidence in him. Coleman played well when called upon.

2005 draft eligible players

Danny Syvret capped off a dream season by being named to the tournament all-star team after picking up five points and was a team high +6. Syvret was also named the CHL Defenseman of the Year during the tournament at the CHL awards banquet. Throw in the gold medal at the World Junior tournament, and it has been an extremely impressive season. Passed over twice before in the draft, it will not be happening this year. When one scout was asked about Syvret, he replied that it seemed like that there was almost a herd mentality that no one wanted to admit that they made a mistake before. Syvret played his usual rock solid game.

Josh Beaulieu played on the fourth line for the tournament and saw limited duty as only Ottawa seemed willing to play their fourth line and the Knights liked keeping their matchups during the game. He played with energy when he was out there, especially when he got a few shifts in the Rimouski game when it had gotten chippy.

Graduating players

Prust and defensemen Bryan Rodney and Daniel Girardi were on the ice as the clock wound down and finished off their junior careers with the Memorial Cup.

Perry, Syvret, Fritsche and Methot could return as overage players, but they will be playing pro somewhere next season. Coleman and Hunter could possibly return, along with goalie Adam Dennis, injured defensemen Frank Rediker (BOS) and Jeff Whitfield, and forwards Drew Larman and Kelly Thomson. Considering their top four defensemen are moving on, look for the Knights to bring back one overage goalie and at least one overage defenseman if not two, and trade any other returnees for draft picks.

Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.