Ferry a future leader

JIM KERNAGHAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 11:33 AM ET

The upside for future London Knights leader Steve Ferry is that he got to see his first OHL playoff game live. The downside is about the same. He saw Thursday's opener against the Guelph Storm rather than played in it, unless you count a single shift.

The Knights' first draft pick is on a well-travelled road, one that has been traversed by a legion of hockey players of immense promise.

But it's a fast track and inside a couple of years, the guy head coach Dale Hunter compares to captain and defensive stalwart Dan Syvret will be taking a prominent blue-line role and conferring on some other youngster the advice older and more experienced Knights defencemen have been giving him.

Patience is the word.

Fortunately, the kid has a lot of maturity for a 16-year-old. He knows how it works, especially with a team as talented as the Knights.

At the same time, the Richmond Hill native wouldn't be here if he wasn't a highly talented athlete with deeply ingrained competitive instincts. When you're the go-to guy with every team your entire career, taking a seat is a new experience.

"There've been times I wasn't doing so well and getting a bit upset, but the guys talked to me -- we have the top four D (defenceman) in the league, I feel -- and that really helps," the fresh-faced youngster said. "The most important thing I've learned is just to be patient. All the guys have gone through it.

"They've had the same struggles I've had and look at them now. Watching them, I've learned what I have to do to play at their level and I've learned I have to have patience. It's tough at times, but I expected it when I came here."

The Knights brain-trust likes to say it seeks players based on ability, but it has to come wrapped in solid character, too. Ferry appears to be the very embodiment of that combination.

A lot of kids in his situation might say the things he's saying, while secretly harbouring the notion they merit more ice time. You sense Ferry has a firm grasp of the situation.

Of course, he'd love to be on the ice more. Of course, he'd love to be honing his skills in games more than in practices.

But he's bright, knows his day is coming and even though the impatience of a 16 year old is bound to intrude now and then, he is able to subdue it with a vision of the future. Comparisons with Syvret are not idle ones.

Physically, he'll probably add at least 25 pounds to his 175 pounds and grow beyond six-foot tall from his five-foot-10. That and the tutelage he's getting from the solid Knights blue-line package is certain to make him a force and possibly the team leader one day.

This kid is being groomed.

It is testament to his abilities that Ferry is even dressed, considering the roster the Knights boast. There is a compelling reason beyond the fact he can help in spot situations.

He's learning what it is to be in the playoffs, what it is to be in the room with the team and out into the action, even if he's watching a lot of it from the bench. NHL teams do the same thing. Ferry is learning what it takes to be a winner.

When there's the inevitable changing of the guard due to graduation, the Knights will have a product experienced in the ways of leading and winning and what the Memorial Cup is all about.

"He's the Syvie (Syvret) of the future," Hunter said. "I predict he'll be our leader, our captain possibly. He dominated all his age groups and he'll dominate this league."


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