The London Knights continued to load up on the blue-line yesterday for their run to the Memorial Cup tournament. The Knights acquired 19-year-old Jeff Whitfield from the Sarnia Sting, the second straight day the team has traded for a defenceman.
On Tuesday, they obtained over-ager Bryan Rodney, 20, a Londoner, from the Kingston Frontenacs as a replacement for Danny Richmond, who signed with the Carolina Hurricanes and is now in the AHL.
Rodney was the OHL's highest-scoring defenceman last season with 11 goals and 76 points but Whitfield is the opposite. He is a defensive player.
However, at six-foot-two and 208 pounds, the Sault Ste. Marie native will add some welcome muscle in front of the Knights net.
"Bryan Rodney is an unbelievable player, a real offensive guy, while I try to help out at the other end," Whitfield said yesterday after practice.
Whitfield, entering his fourth year in the league, will play in tomorrow night's season opener in Kitchener, then the home opener Sunday against the Rangers at the John Labatt Centre at 2 p.m.
The Knights also picked up Sarnia's sixth-round pick in the 2005 draft as part of the deal while sending centre Scott Restoule, 17, their fourth-round pick in 2003, to the Sting. Restoule spent last season in junior B with Strathroy.
It's not often that you'll see the Knights and Sting make a trade since they enjoy a heated rivalry. So Whitfield was a bit surprised when he was told he was headed just an hour down Highway 402.
"It's a huge rivalry," said Whitfield, who spent his first three years in the league with the Sting after being selected in the second round in 2001.
"You always get up for that game, so in that respect it is a little weird to see a London-Sarnia deal. But I think it's worked out well."
It certainly has for Whitfield -- he goes from a team that has been eliminated from the playoffs in the first round the last seven years to one that is going directly into the Memorial Cup tournament in May, with the Knights playing host to the event at the JLC.
"It's sort of mixed emotions to leave Sarnia, but I am happy to be going to the Memorial Cup," he said.
Whitfield said that whenever a player is traded, "you really want to have the feeling you're going somewhere you're wanted" because your old team has decided you're expendable.
He said knowing that former NHLers Mark and Dale Hunter traded for him, in the team's Memorial Cup year, helped drive home that point. Mark Hunter is the Knights' general manager and brother Dale is head coach.
"Dale was a great player, a real intense guy, and when somebody like Mark Hunter trades for you, it makes you feel really special that somebody would ask about you," Whitfield said.
"It's very exciting to play for them, and obviously (Knights assistant coach) Jeff Perry. I played for him in Sarnia, so that's a familiar face."