Rodney tops up Knights' Cup bid

JIM CRESSMAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 6:26 AM ET

The first time Bryan Rodney played in the Memorial Cup, he was a 17-year-old rookie who was moved off the blue-line and up to forward. The 20-year-old Londoner will be playing a much bigger role in his next Cup appearance, which will be in May at the John Labatt Centre.

The Memorial Cup-bound London Knights landed the talented over-age defenceman yesterday in a trade with the Kingston Frontenacs.

Rodney was the OHL's top-scoring defenceman last season with 11 goals and 76 points in 67 games.

He was home awaiting a trade after being cut from the Detroit Red Wings' minor league camp last week and got to the JLC to practise a few minutes with his new teammates.

He will be in the lineup Friday when the Knights open the season in Kitchener, and will make his home debut Sunday against the Rangers.

"This is the best place to play junior hockey and I'm happy to be here," he said yesterday after coming off the ice.

He was a rookie defenceman in Ottawa when the 67's went to the 2001 Memorial Cup in Regina. The 67's were hit with injuries and Rodney wound up playing forward. Ottawa went 1-2 in the round-robin, then lost the tie-breaker.

"I rode a few coat tails to get there and I wasn't a very big part of it, playing left-wing on the third line because of the injuries."

It will be much different this time, especially with the Knights already in the Memorial Cup as host team.

"To know I could be a big piece of this puzzle is exciting," Rodney said.

"There's a little more certainty this year and I know (Knights GM) Mark Hunter wants me to come in and really care about winning and losing. That's what the Knights pride themselves on."

With all the firepower the Knights have, Rodney's points production should jump.

"There's obviously a lot of high-powered guys here and I know it's a cliched remark, but I don't really care who scores the goals as long as at the end of the night we have more than the other team," he said.

"I've done that point thing the last couple of years and it hasn't panned out into a contract, so this year I'll probably focus more on my defensive play.

"But that second assist is always nice to get."

This was a deal Hunter worked on all summer, but talks heated up last week when 20-year-old defenceman Danny Richmond signed with the Carolina Hurricanes and was sent to their AHL team.

Hunter sent defenceman Adam Nemeth, forward Bobby Bolt and a sixth-round draft pick to Kingston.

"We were looking at this deal for a while but with our injuries (Frank Rediker and Ryan Pottruff), we're depleted at the back," Hunter said.

"With Rediker hurt, (Danny) Syvret and (Marc) Methot were our two most experienced guys and we needed someone to help them.

"It was hard to trade Adam . . . but he was (two years) younger than Rodney and we needed someone who was going to play a lot of minutes.

"We like Rodney because of his skill. We believe in the transition game and he's good at making the first pass. He won't just take the puck and bang it around the boards."

The trade gives the Knights four over-agers, including forwards Brandon Prust, Logan Hunter (out six weeks with a broken ankle) and Rick Steadman.

Teams can dress only three over-agers for games and must trim their roster to four by Nov. 15, then to three on Jan. 10, the OHL trade deadline.

"We'll just carry the four for now and we'll watch and see what happens," Mark Hunter said. "We'll go from there when Logan is ready to go."

BRYAN RODNEY

Defenceman

Born April 22, 1984 in London

Six-foot, 185 pounds

GP G A Pts PIM

00-01 Ottawa 65 0 15 15 26

01-02 Ottawa 30 3 8 11 14

Kingston 18 2 8 10 8

Season 48 5 16 21 22

02-03 Kingston 67 8 52 60 60

03-04 Kingston 67 11 65 76 68

Totals 247 24 148 172 176

KNIGHTWATCH

Friday: The Knights open the OHL season in Kitchener against the Rangers. Game time at the Memorial Auditorium is 7:30 p.m. For tickets, phone 1-800-265-8977 or go online at www.centre-square.com.

Sunday: The Knights play their home opener against the Rangers at the John Labatt Centre at 2 p.m. About 1,500 tickets remain. Tickets at the Knights' box office, Gate 4 at the JLC, or phone 681-0800 or online at www.ticketmaster.ca.


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