Hunter prowls for trades

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 9:00 AM ET

Last season, the London Knights had the best team in the Canadian Hockey League when they acquired goalie Adam Dennis and forward Dan Fritsche at the OHL trade deadline.

London GM Mark Hunter, who has already declared a willingness to take another run at an OHL championship this season, missed the Knights' 4-3 overtime home win over Kitchener Sunday to take in Ottawa at Mississauga in the afternoon and Toronto at Oshawa in the evening.

The trade deadline is today at 6 p.m. and most expect Hunter to do something to bolster his club, especially on the defensive side.

"I went to Mississauga and Oshawa to see a couple of games," Hunter said last night.

"It's something you do near deadline time. You want to see what's out there."

London, which leads the Western Conference for the third straight season, boasts the league's two most dynamic offensive players in Rob Schremp and David Bolland and the top goalie in Dennis.

But division rival Kitchener has the OHL's best defence and tremendous forward depth that could make the difference in a best-of-seven series.

"We have a good club. We have guys who know how to win," Hunter said. "We're a little bit young on our back end and that's what worries me the most."

To pick up a quality defenceman, London could dangle a few of its glut of feisty, hard-working forwards, some of whom have at least another year of junior eligibility.

Part of Hunter's blue-line fears could be put to rest if 20-year-old defenceman Frank Rediker returns this weekend. The veteran blue-liner, who has a history of injuries, has missed 14 games with knee woes, but has been skating for the last week.

"We expect Frank to be back in the lineup on Friday," in Sudbury, Hunter said.

While Rediker has been out, London has been playing with only two over-age players -- Dennis and captain Dylan Hunter.

A couple of months ago, the Knights had too many 20-year-old players and traded tough guy Kelly Thomson to Oshawa, where he's drawing a regular shift with the Generals.

"You need your three over-agers to be playing every night," Hunter said.

David Pszenyczny, who Hunter saw play in Mississauga Sunday and is one of the OHL's top 20-year-old defencemen, ended up moving from the IceDogs to Barrie yesterday with Jordan Grant and Jeremy Whalen for Nathan Martine and Brett Oliphant. London plays Pszenyczny and the Colts Saturday night in Barrie.

Hunter said he is talking to teams, but he knows how difficult it will be to land a solid veteran defenceman. There aren't many available this year and teams that own them are asking a lot in return. "It's easier to be a seller than a buyer."

London, which likely will battle Kitchener and Guelph down the stretch for the conference title, knows how important home-ice advantage will be in the playoffs. This season, the Knights are 19-2-0-1 at the John Labatt Centre and 8-7-0-1 on the road. Both of London's home losses happened in the first two weeks of the season before Schremp, Dylan Hunter and Dennis returned.

On the weekend, the Knights shipped Mike Noyes (Petrolia Jets), Corbin Crawford (Wellington Dukes), Reggie Traccitto (Cambridge Winterhawks), Kyle Moore (Strathroy Rockets) and Kelan Herr (Stratford Cullitons) back to their junior teams. Crawford and Traccitto have to finish their seasons in Wellington and Cambridge before they can be recalled to London.

KNIGHTWATCH

Friday: at Sudbury, 7:30 p.m.

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

Sunday: The Knights will be at Harvey's on Fanshawe Park Road at 1 p.m. Fans can buy a toque for autism that day for $10.


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