A.J. Perry making his own name

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:48 AM ET

While his older brother Corey was jetting to Anaheim to seek hockey fame and fortune as a Mighty Duck, A.J. Perry was back home in Peterborough, helping widen the major road to the city.

"I tried to get on the ice and work out as much as possible this summer around my job, which was in construction," 18-year-old A.J. said. "We worked on Highway 115. There was a lot of shovel work. Some days were hard and some were easy. I held the stop sign one time -- that was a pretty long day."

The forward has brought a blue-collar work ethic and a nifty scoring touch around the net to London this year.

In his first full season with the Knights, he has 11 goals and 23 points in 19 games and has logged plenty of time on head coach Dale Hunter's effective five-forward power play.

"It takes a lot to earn Dale's trust and once you have it, you don't want to lose it," the six-foot, 185-pounder said. "It's definitely a day-to-day thing and you have to keep working hard to stay where you are."

Perry, who scored a team-high 10 goals in the preseason, was originally listed as a rookie this year and zoomed among the OHL's first-year scoring leaders, along with teammate Sergei Kostitsyn and Oshawa's John Tavares.

But the OHL, which judges a rookie to be one who plays a quarter of a season (17 games) or less, took a second look recently and recategorized Perry as a sophomore because he played 18 regular season games and eight in the playoffs during the run to the Memorial Cup title.

"I don't know what happened there but I don't really feel like a rookie," Perry said.

"The guys cut me a break this year and don't make me pick up the pucks after practice or unload the bus because I did all that stuff last year. I guess you could say I paid my dues."

He's still paying the price every time he steps on the ice, according to Knights assistant coach Jeff Perry (no relation).

A.J. adds value to London's power play by heading straight to the front of the net for tip-ins, screen shots and rebound goals.

"It's unfair to compare Corey and A.J. They're two completely different players," Jeff Perry said.

"Corey is a bigger player who could really dangle. A.J., you wouldn't call him a natural goal scorer, but he goes to the front of the net in that ugly area where not a lot of people want to go and has a nice touch from in close.

"They would've been a good complement (as linemates)."

Going to the front of the net is a lot less hazardous in this era of enforced rules. The only major battle Perry precipitated this season was a near-brawl when he landed on goalie Carlo DiRienzo in Oshawa Oct. 30.

"It's a two-way street now," he said. "They can't really touch you, but you can't do anything either or you're going to take a penalty and end the power play.

"It's not as tough physically to go in front of the net, but it's still an important place that you have to be to score."

A.J., who still talks to Corey after nearly every game, reports his brother is back in action in Anaheim after suffering a concussion.

"He likes to keep track (of us)," A.J. said. "We lost 12 unbelievable players from last year. It was a great team to be around and learn from and I think being part of what went on has helped the rest of us who are still here."

KNIGHTWATCH

Tomorrow: vs. Guelph, 7 p.m. at the John Labatt Centre

Friday: vs. Owen Sound, 7:30 p.m. at the JLC

Saturday: at Erie, 7:30 p.m.


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