Knights rookie achieves goals

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:49 AM ET

Several London Knights have underachieved this season.

Not first-rounder Scott Harrington.

The sturdy 16-year-old rookie defenceman has quickly earned big blue-line minutes from Knights assistant coach Jacques Beaulieu. He also just saved his agent Darren Ferris of The Bobby Orr Group plenty of grief.

Before the season, Ferris said he'd dress up as Knights mascot Sir Scores-A-Lot if his young Kingston-raised client didn't crack the Ontario under-17 team this year.

It became official yesterday. Harrington did it.

He's heading to Timmins for the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge Dec. 29-Jan. 4.

"I've never been (that far north) in the winter," Harrington said. "I'll have to make sure I pack some extra clothes."

The gold-medal pressure should keep him and his teammates -- including Dorchester's Boone Jenner of the Oshawa Generals, Londoner Carter Sandlak from the Guelph Storm, Owen Sound defenceman and Sarnia native Curtis Crombeen and Ripley's Garrett Meurs (Plymouth Whalers) -- warm.

Team Ontario won the 2009 tournament in Port Alberni, B.C., with Plymouth stud Tyler Seguin leading the way.

Windsor star Taylor Hall helped Ontario stand tall at the 2008 tourney at the John Labatt Centre in London.

Harrington and Co. will be expected to defend again.

"This year, my goal was to make the London Knights," the six-foot-one, 190-pounder said, "and after that, I wanted to play on the U-17 team. It's a great opportunity to show what you can do."

It's a first foot in the Hockey Canada door.

From there, the path leads on to under-18 teams, top NHL draft status and the world junior tournament dream.

Harrington's OHL career got off to a rocky start. He broke his wrist in his first preseason game against Sarnia.

But in 13 games since, he has five assists and is a whopping plus-10 for a Knights defence corps expected to suffer without John Carlson and Michael Del Zotto.

Harrington got his wrist brace off two weekends ago.

"When he comes to the rink, he's all business," Beaulieu said of Harrington. "For him, it's time to go to work. He's a great learner and my trust in him has grown so quickly.

"He still can make the mistakes of a 16-year-old but he's logging 20-25 minutes for us now. We're putting him in every situation and we're trying to find power-play time for him because he gets his shots through to the net and he shoots the puck hard."

The Knights haven't recently shown such faith in one of their first-rounders. Christian Thomas was traded to Oshawa in the John Tavares deal.

So was 2007 first pick Michael Zador.

Phil McRae, who missed practice yesterday to have his wisdom teeth pulled, scored two goals in his first full OHL season after being picked first in 2006.

Corey Syvret, the Knights' top guy in 2005, is finishing his OHL career with Guelph.

"Jacques gave me some time on the second power-play unit this past weekend with Steve Tarasuk," Harrington said. "Our power play had its struggles but it's getting better and hopefully, we'll score a few this weekend.

"It does give you confidence to be out there in different situations and I'm going to take that confidence with me into the U-17 tournament."

Beaulieu said Harrington is quiet in the dressing room. By blending into the background, he avoids a lot of the razzing more smart-mouthed first-year players often take from their veteran teammates.

The fact he can play at a high level here this quickly has also added instant respect.

"I like to think I'm a laid-back guy," Harrington said. "I came here for one thing and that's to help the London Knights win a Memorial Cup and I'm always working towards that dream."

He's been pulling his weight.

But the Knights need much more from their older players. No one on the team is scoring at better than a point-per-game clip.

Toronto Maple Leafs first-rounder Nazem Kadri and goalie Michael Hutchinson didn't practise yesterday because they're preparing to play in Barrie tonight for Team OHL in the Subway Super Series against Russia.

Kadri picked up five minor penalties in a one-goal win in Sault Ste. Marie on Sunday.

GM Mark Hunter said he isn't shopping his star forward.

"I like to look around and hear what's going on in the rest of the league," Hunter said. "I don't know what we need yet. I'm going to watch our team for the next month because that's the most important thing. I don't know if we need to add another offensive defenceman. We'll see.

"Nazem? There's a little bit of frustration there and I understand it. He's had a lot going on the last three months. "He just has to get back to playing his game again and he'll be fine."

And the rest of the Knights should follow his lead.

KNIGHTWATCH

Tomorrow: vs. Erie, 7:30 p.m. at the John Labatt Centre.

Sunday: at Oshawa, 6:05 p.m. at the General Motors Centre.


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