Perry officially OHL's top player

JIM CRESSMAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:07 AM ET

The London Knights hit the trifecta yesterday.

Right-winger Corey Perry, as expected, was awarded the Red Tilson Trophy as the OHL's most outstanding player this season.

That means three Knights will be on the national stage May 24 when the Canadian Hockey League awards are handed out in London.

Danny Syvret is up for defenceman of the year and Dale Hunter for his second straight coach-of-the-year honours.

But the Knights could be chasing the superfecta. The OHL still has to announce its executive of the year and GM Mark Hunter is a candidate after building the Knights into one of the best teams in major junior history.

It's been quite a ride for Perry. He won a gold medal with Canada at the world junior championship, won the OHL scoring title with 130 points, including 47 goals, and became the Knights' career scoring leader with 380 points, including 140 goals, in 253 games over four seasons.

"To be a part of this group is unbelievable," Perry said while reading some of the names on the Tilson trophy, including Glenn Hall, Frank Mahovlich, Stan Mikita, Rod Gilbert, Yvan Cournoyer, Gilbert Perrault, Doug Gilmour and Eric Lindros.

Perry, 19, is the fourth Knight to win the trophy, first presented in 1945 by the Globe and Mail, "for outstanding and gentlemanly play in the Ontario Hockey Association Junior A series."

Dennis Maruk won in 1975, Dave Simpson in 1982 and Jason Allison in 1994. Simpson and Allison both went on to CHL honours.

Perry chuckled when it was pointed out "gentlemanly play" is part of the award.

"Ah, I'm a gentlemanly player," he said, although he can display a nasty streak that earned him 117 penalty minutes in the regular season, fourth most on the team and most among the league's top 20 scorers.

His 40 penalty minutes in the playoffs is also most among the top 15 scorers.

"I think it's about caring about the game as much as anything, and having respect for the game," Perry said.

OHL commissioner David Branch was in London to make the formal presentation during a media conference in advance of the OHL final between the Knights and Ottawa 67's.

"Corey first came on to the radar screen for some of us going back to Peterborough and the 2001 OHL Bantam Cup," Branch said.

"At that time, you could see there was something special in Corey (and) he made an immediate impact on our league (the next season).

"This has been a magical year for the London Knights, and let me suggest it's been led by the magic of Corey Perry."

Branch said a crowning moment came when Perry made the Canadian juniors.

"I was absolutely so pleased to sit back in North Dakota and watch him and some of the other members of the OHL, including Danny Syvret," Branch said.

"And in watching Corey, it was very special. He went to camp knowing he might not make the team. He then made the team knowing he maybe was the 13th forward.

(But) it didn't take too long for that magic to come through and be recognized by everyone. And he performed at a time when it meant the most and that was under pressure in big games.

"To see his growth and development is a tribute to Mark Hunter and Dale Hunter and the coaching he has received here, and to his teammates."

But as much as this has been a season to celebrate, Perry said the Tilson now goes on the shelf, until after the Memorial Cup.

"In the month of June, I'll sit back and think about what went on this year, but there's still a lot of things left to do."


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