Matt Davis is a member of the class of '04.
The London Knights hope this is the year the left-winger graduates to the OHL.
Davis was one of four players the Knights selected in the fifth round of that year's draft, but he's the only one of the four who is attending this year's training camp.
"He's a tough kid, he really wants to play for the London Knights and that's all you want from a kid," general manager Mark Hunter said yesterday at the John Labatt Centre.
"He's still got to come out and battle, but I think he's willing."
Whenever Hunter says the word "tough," it triggers an internal smile in the Knights co-owner and any player who displays that quality will always get a second and even third look from the brass.
Davis, five-foot-11 and 175 pounds, scored seven goals in 45 games with the Tier 2 junior Milton IceHawks last season while spending 78 minutes in the penalty box.
The Stoney Creek native was a scorer with the Hamilton Junior Bulldogs AAA minor midget team, a reason the Knights drafted him.
But last season, he went from being the big fish in the small pond to the small fish in the big pond.
That's not always easy for a kid who starred in minor hockey, but Davis said IceHawks coach George Dupont helped him with the adjustment.
"I learned how to start over at the bottom after getting all that ice time in minor," said Davis, who turns 17 next month.
"It keeps you humble. It's all about hard work. I just want to leave a good impression out there and hopefully they like what they see. I play hard and tough, but not stupid."
The three other fifth-round picks in 2004 went other routes last season.
Left-winger Brandon Biggers was traded to the Guelph Storm. Centre Pat Kane and defenceman Kevin Montgomery both chose the U.S. under-17 program.
The only two players from that 2004 draft who played with the Knights last season were defencemen Steven Ferry and Matt McCready.
"We hope (Kane and Montgomery) come here at some time, but we'll have to see," Hunter said.
"We expect Davis to come in here and make sure he plays hard every shift, then we go from there."
Davis said he knows it was a big jump from minor midget to Tier 2 junior, but it's a major leap from that level to the OHL.
"You can't take a shift off, a stride off here," he said, adding it's "an honour" to be in training camp with the defending OHL and Memorial Cup champions.
"I feel lucky, but you can't worry about that," he said when it was mentioned that the Knights hadn't forgotten about him.
"They were the best team in all of junior hockey last year and I'll just try to do my best and hope they like what they see."