Newest Knight a familiar face

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:12 AM ET

The John Labatt Centre ice is a long way from the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

But tonight, it won't feel that far for Michael D'Orazio when he makes his London Knights debut against the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors.

Two summers ago in Europe, the strapping defenceman played for Canada in the Ivan Hlinka Memorial under-18 tournament.

"Wearing the Canadian jersey," he said, "was an experience I'll never forget."

Back then, Canadian assistant coach Jacques Beaulieu handled the defence and told D'Orazio when to go on the ice.

He passed the puck up to teammates such as Nazem Kadri and patrolled the blue-line at times with Michael Del Zotto.

In that event, American Phil McRae led the tournament in scoring.

Noticing some familiar names here?

D'Orazio sure does.

Back on the ice after tweaking his groin in San Jose Sharks rookie camp, he's listening to Beaulieu again.

McRae could be the Knights' leading scorer this season.

If the NHL's Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Rangers co-operate -- and that's certainly no gimme -- he'll be back on the ice with Kadri and Del Zotto sometime soon.

The 19-year-old Richmond Hill native also grew up playing minor hockey and lacrosse with Phil Varone. He knows the guy he was traded for -- burly forward Jason Wilson -- well.

"It's awkward coming to a new team," the six-foot-one, 211-pounder said, "but it always helps when you know some of the guys. I've been here for a bit and the guys have shown me around the city.

"It's going to be different -- they (the Knights) were a pretty big rival (when he played in Owen Sound the last three years) -- but it'll be nice to hear the cheers this time from that crowd of 9,000."

D'Orazio is a bulldozer on the ice. He practically paved his own way to London.

He refused to return to the Attack this fall after three seasons, zero playoff wins and new management. He wanted to go to one of the contenders -- London, Barrie or Windsor.

An Attack first-rounder in 2006, he nixed a trade to Niagara and realizes he'll probably be booed when the Knights play in St. Catharines on Feb. 4.

"I enjoyed playing in Owen Sound," he said. "I was treated well but . . . I wanted the chance to play for a contender and we know we have that in London.

"The guys will all work extra hard because we know here it's Memorial Cup or nothing."

His insistence on writing his own script could be interpreted as a character issue. Beaulieu spent 20 days with him on the Canadian team and didn't see any selfishness.

"He has character," Beaulieu said. "He thought there would be a benefit in being somewhere different and that happens. We traded away a pretty good player to get him. He gives us another veteran presence on the blue-line and we needed someone we could count on to give 20-25 good minutes. He's strong, he hits and he has a good shot."

D'Orazio is excited about adding some offence to his game. He hasn't exactly been Ryan Ellis or John Carlson statistically by the Bayshore.

"In talking to Dale and Mark Hunter, I know they want me to try to be a little more offensive and help out on the power play," he said. "I'm looking forward to that."

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Michael D'Orazio

Position: Defence

Shoots: Right

Height: Six-foot-one

Weight: 211 pounds

Born: Aug. 16, 1990

Hometown: Richmond Hill

Owen Sound Attack stats

Regular season

2006-07: 58 games, 3 goals, 13 points, 71 penalty minutes

2007-08: 67, 1, 20, 129

2008-09: 65, 0, 16, 71

Playoffs

2007: 4 GP, 0 G, 2 P, 4 PIMs

2008: Did not qualify

2009: 4, 0, 2, 4


Photos