Draft confirms Junior Knights' ascension

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 12:03 PM ET

Call it one of the best days in London minor hockey history.

The 2005 OHL draft yesterday proved something people in London have been saying all year: the quality of minor hockey in this city is on the way up.

Four London minor midget AAA players were selected in the first two rounds of the draft. Centre Logan Couture, who was a member of that team but opted to play junior B this season, was also selected. He was rated No. 1 before the OHL opted to make 14-year-old John Tavares eligible this week.

In an e-mail sent overnight before the draft, the Couture family said Logan would not report to any OHL team that drafted him. The Ottawa 67's took the risk and picked him 12th.

"I'm hoping to see them (today)," 67's coach Brian Kilrea told Sun Media. "We've expressed a great interest in Logan and we're hoping that we can convince him otherwise and let him know that we want him here."

"With everything that's gone down, we're not talking to the press," Logan's father Chet said politely. He said that neither he nor Logan had talked with Ottawa after Logan was selected.

Chet referred all calls to Logan's advisor John Thornton, who told Sun Media, "The OHL closed the door on (Couture being the first pick). We're not closing the doors on Logan Couture.

"We're keeping all our options open."

The United States Hockey League draft is this week. Logan may go there or may wait to see if U.S. college is an option.

The Couture issue overshadowed what was a great day for the London Juinior Knights AAA minor midgets.

Defenceman Drew Doughty was picked fifth overall by the Guelph Storm. Centre Jordan Skellet went 17th to the Mississuaga IceDogs. Winger Adam Zamec was the seventh pick of the second round, going to St. Michael's Majors, while big winger Leigh Salters also went to the Storm as the last pick of the second round. Shawn Wood went to the Sarnia Sting in Round 6.

"The London Junior Knights annual meeting is held on the day of the OHL draft," said Junior Knights president Joe O'Neill. "Whenever a player is drafted someone comes in and interrupts the meeting and announces it. Parents of our minor atoms, atoms, minor peewees hear that and go 'Wow, this really happens.' We had a good meeting."

O'Neill said he's "not the least bit surprised" by the draft. "They are not only exceptional players but exceptional young men. And one thing I want to remind everyone is that these are all London kids."

There is one player in particular O'Neill singled out.

"I believe Drew Doughty, by the time he's 19, will be the best defenceman in the OHL," he said.

Doughty expected he would go high in the draft but what made the day all the more special was the team that selected him.

"I wanted to go to Guelph," he said. "We went to a meeting with them. It isn't far from London. The family can go and see the games. (Coach) Dave Barr is a great guy and seems like he'll be a great coach and he'll make me a better player."

This AAA team has been the focus of a great deal of scouting over the year. Skellet says the draft has pretty much been on his mind the "past couple of months."

"It's been one of the main things in my head besides school," he said. "But even at school I'd find myself daydreaming about the draft. Everything was about hockey, hockey, hockey. I'm just really happy it was Mississauga because I have relatives there. It turned out great.

"I can't wait to get to the next step. I can't wait for the season to get going and meet the coaches."

Zamec, Doughty and Skellet are close friends and have played together for a number of years.

"I played hockey all the way through with Drew. Jordan came in three or four years ago," Zamec said. "We're great buddies. I didn't think we'd be on the same team. It's going to be different playing against them. It's going to be fun as well."


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