Knights aim to take it all the way

London Knights veterans (those in at least their third year in the league) are eager for the OHL...

London Knights veterans (those in at least their third year in the league) are eager for the OHL season, which opened last night in Peterborough and which starts for the Knights tonight in Kitchener. In front is goaltender Ryan McDonald. Kneeling behind him are Rob Schremp, left, Rob Drummond, Corey Perry, new captain Danny Syvret and Dylan Hunter. Standing in back are Bryan Rodney, Shawn Futers, Rick Steadman, Marc Methot, Gerald Coleman and Brandon Prust. (Dave Chidley, London Free Press)

Jim Cressman -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 9:10 AM ET

The London Knights aren't taking anything for granted. They learned that lesson against Guelph in last season's Western Conference final, losing Game 7 and seeing the Storm eventually go to the Memorial Cup in Kelowna, B.C.

So even though they have an automatic berth in the 2005 Memorial Cup tournament because the event is at the John Labatt Centre in May, they're approaching this season as they would any other.

"They want to win," coach Dale Hunter said yesterday. "They got a taste of winning last year (when the Knights finished first overall with a record 110 points). It's a fun year when you're winning."

The Knights not only are picked to win the OHL championship this season, they're favoured to win the Memorial Cup.

Not a lot has changed since last season and where the Knights have lost some players, general manager Mark Hunter has been quick to fill those holes.

"I think we're OK, but you're never satisfied and you're always looking for ways to improve your hockey club," Hunter said.

Although nobody is saying much about it, the No. 1 ranking and the Memorial Cup are on their minds.

"There's always a certain amount of pressure any time you have a team that's a good hockey club," said Mark Hunter. "In past years, you watch through the OHL, some teams have buckled under it and others have risen to the top.

"I believe that comes from the leadership inside the dressing room. Good leadership goes a long way in not worrying about the pressure and going out and playing and doing what you have to do. I think we do have good leadership in the dressing room. These kids care about winning and losing."

Captain Danny Syvret said the veterans have to step it up.

"We know we're there already. We have the entire year to prepare ourselves and just have to keep everybody on the same page. That's where the leadership steps in. We can't take anything for granted. We just have to play the season out like we're not in it.

"We have a pretty competitive team and we have a lot of expectations, as a team and personally. We're going to go out and try to set some more records and try to earn our way there."

Corey Perry could win the scoring title after finishing second last season to Corey Locke of Ottawa.

Perry says that if you look after the team goals first, the personal goals will follow naturally.

Dale Hunter said there is no worry when it comes to Perry and his leadership role.

"The guys look up to him because he practises hard. Leading by example isn't always yelling, it's things like staying after practice to work on your shot.

"You've got to love the game and Corey does. He knows what level he can take it to. He almost won the scoring race last year (five points behind Locke). We knew eventually he'd become a complete player. All it would take was to get physically stronger, which he is now (six-foot-three, 197 pounds)."

Hunter said Perry's strong suit is that he uses the players around him. "Look at the NHL and who wins the scoring race. It's not the guy who scores 50 goals and gets 30 assists. You don't win scoring races like that. It's the guy who scores 40 goals and has 70 assists. You win the scoring championship and you're the MVP of the league."

Perry considers an MVP award a team award. "You can't do it without your teammates," he said.

Attitudes like that go a long way.


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