The London Knights' blue-line has just been super-sized.
The OHL's Western Conference leaders added six-foot-four, 222-pound Sarnia defenceman Matt Pelech yesterday in a trade that sent 2004 first-rounder Steve Ferry and hard-nosed defender Matt McCready to the youthful Sting.
"I've been here (in Sarnia) for 2 1/2 years, so, yes, it's shocking," Pelech, an 18-year-old Toronto native, said while packing for the move to London. "It will feel a little strange at first (to suit up for London), but once you play, then it's just another game. I know the past few years, we've struggled in Sarnia, so going to an environment like (first-place) London, it's going to be a different feeling."
Pelech, who was a Calgary Flames first-round pick (26th overall) this year, is recovering from a shoulder separation and likely won't play until London's first post-Christmas game on Dec. 28 in Guelph.
A Sarnia third-rounder in 2003, he had two assists and 59 penalty minutes in 19 games this season and missed 37 games last year with shoulder woes.
The 17-year-old Ferry had three goals and eight points in 30 games.
McCready, an 18-year-old from Tecumseh, had a goal and six points in 20 games.
Both Ferry and McCready are expected to play for Sarnia tomorrow night in Kitchener.
"We felt we needed some more size at our back end and we went and got what we feel is a good one in Pelech," Knights GM Mark Hunter said. "We didn't get (Pelech) for free. I stand by my first-round draft pick. Steve Ferry (five-foot-10, 175 pounds) is going to be a good defenceman in this league. Matt McCready (five-foot-11, 195 pounds) is going to be a good defenceman. Players develop at different times and Pelech is a little older, bigger and more experienced right now and that's what we felt we needed at this time."
Hunter said he realizes he is selling some of London's future for another shot at a Memorial Cup appearance this season. But the Knights didn't expect to be as strong as they are right now and feel obligated to chase another league championship with this group.
"We have Rob Schremp and Dylan Hunter, Adam Dennis, David Bolland, Sergei Kostitsyn and Trevor Kell so we are going for it," Hunter said.
"Some teams trade for the future and some trade for now. I'm not worried about (stocking Sarnia with quality players). You have a need at a certain position, you try to fill it.
"It's a testament to our scouting staff that we knew players like Harrison Reed and Ryan Pottruff were good, but we needed a Danny Fritsche and a Dan Girardi at that time last year, so you make those deals."
Even with the addition of Pelech, London won't feel comfortable with its defensive corps until it finds out if veteran Frank Rediker can contribute with a chronically wonky knee.
"We're down a couple of (defencemen) right now, but we'll see what happens," Hunter said. "Frank is expected to be available on Jan. 1, so we'll look at what we have there when he's back."
Right now, rookie Scott Aarssen and big Ryan Martinelli have been logging 26 minutes of ice time a game. Though the pair has played with much heart and grit, the need for another quality defender was underlined when the Knights blew third-period leads to Kitchener and Guelph last week.
"The first thing to go when you're tired is the mind, not the legs," said London assistant coach Jacques Beaulieu. "Those guys have done a great job for us -- but, to keep them fresh, we should be playing them about 20 minutes a game and give them some help."
Aarssen, who leads the Knights at plus-15, said he doesn't feel tired until he heads home.
"On the ice, you feel great but when you get home, you just want to go to sleep," he said. "The ice time has been more than I expected this year. (Martinelli) and I have a good chemistry. We played half a season together (in St. Thomas) last year."
Tomorrow: Knights vs. Sudbury, 7:30 p.m. at the John Labatt Centre.
Saturday: Knights vs. Mississauga, 7 p.m. at the John Labatt Centre.