Schremp credits benching by coach

JIM CRESSMAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:55 AM ET

MISSISSAUGA -- Being benched for most of Games 6 and 7 in last season's OHL Western Conference final was a humbling experience for Rob Schremp.

The London Knights centre admits it also was the best thing any coach has ever done for him.

"Dale Hunter is the best thing that happened to me," said Schremp, who joined the Knights early last season from the Mississauga IceDogs.

"He's really brought me along. I've learned a lot of good lessons from him. That was very humbling against Guelph. It taught me not to be so high. You're never so good that you can't be benched."

Schremp leads the league with 24 goals in 26 games and his season is catching the attention of people at USA Hockey in Colorado Springs, Colo. They're preparing to finalize their team for the world junior championship, Dec. 25-Jan. 4 in Grand Forks, N.D.

The first 12 players were announced three weeks ago. The remaining 10 will be named a week today. Schremp wasn't among the first dozen.

"Obviously he's been playing well, as the team has been. That's unprecedented territory the team has gone to," said Jim Johannson, USA Hockey senior director, hockey operations.

The Knights' 26-game unbeaten streak, an OHL record, is an attention-grabber and so is Schremp's performance. In the three weeks since USA Hockey released its initial roster, he has 14 goals and eight assists in 10 games.

"Obviously we're making phone calls and a lot of this is being sorted out right now," Johannson said.

Their concern has been with Schremp making the smart play offensively.

"We're hearing he's more unselfish with the puck and much more disciplined overall," Johannson said. "His offence is speaking for itself. He's in a good atmosphere and a good environment and that's leading to his good all-round play. Overall his game is better."

USA Hockey may have to replace one of the centres already named.

Dan Fritsche of the Sarnia Sting injured his shoulder Saturday in just his second game back following surgery in September on the same shoulder.

An MRI was done yesterday and the Sting will have the result today. It's not the same part of the shoulder that was previously injured.

Schremp said Hunter "taught me to be a complete player and to not just make the play for myself, but to open up space for the four other guys on the ice.

"Instead of dangling past two guys, then making the shot for myself, stickhandle by one, then make the pass to the guy that's in the open."

There's no question Schremp is among the top creative players in the OHL. It's just been a matter of knowing when and how to use that creativity.

"You've just got to go with your best option," he said. "You have to pick the sure play, not the risky play. I'm not trying the real risky plays as much as I used to.

"I think I've matured as a player. I'm much more mature than I was last year."

Knights defenceman Danny Syvret is impressed with Schremp's commitment to team play.

"He's changed his game up a lot from last year. He's helping his team out as well as his status for next year," Syvret said of Schremp, an Edmonton Oilers' first-round draft pick.

When the subject of the U.S. junior team came up, Syvret said: "For his sake, I hope he does get picked. He's changed his mentality and he's helped his game as well as the team. I hope they recognize that."

Knights general manager Mark Hunter said Schremp "is a special player, I can't say enough about him. Now it's all about him being a part of the team.

"It was just a little learning curve. He's had some bumps, but he's bought in and he's been great. We talk about USA Hockey and when they make the decision, I hope he's on it. If he isn't, it's the wrong decision."


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