BELLEVILLE -- This year, Cory Emmerton has played in the Top Prospects showcase, the ADT Canada-Russia challenge and, last night, the OHL all-star game.
But one of the biggest contests on the hockey schedule of the 17-year-old St. Thomas native happens Saturday night when his Kingston Frontenacs face the London Knights in their lone visit to the John Labatt Centre this season.
"We only get the chance to go back home once every season and it's always exciting to play at the place where I've watched a lot of games when I was younger," the six-foot, 190-pound Fronts forward said before suiting up for the Brian Kilrea-coached Eastern conference all-stars at Belleville's Yardmen Arena.
A shining star in his second OHL season, Emmerton hopes to erase memories of last year's London stop when the out-of-playoffs Frontenacs were whacked 14-1 by the buzzsaw Knights.
"That was a different experience," said Emmerton, a former member of the Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs. "They've got a good team again, but we're looking forward to playing a better game this time. I think it's going to be a lot different."
The way he has been playing, it's hard to doubt him. Emmerton, a fifth-round pick by Kingston in 2004, is leading his team in scoring and sits 10th in the OHL with 22 goals and 69 points.
He was recently tabbed as the 11th-ranked North American skater for the 2006 NHL entry draft by the central scouting bureau, which could translate into a selection in the first round.
"It's nice when it first comes out, but it's something you can't really be thinking about all the time," Emmerton said. "These games like the all-star game, there's no more pressure on you. It's just a chance to play with the top players in the league. All I'm really worried about is going back and helping our team get into the playoffs.
"If we go on a long run, then everything takes else care of itself."
Defenceman Adam Nemeth, a former Knight who was traded last year as part of the deal to bring Bryan Rodney home to London, is the captain of the Kingston club and a quality leader according to his teammate.
"He was a quieter guy last year, but this year you would notice a big change in him," Emmerton said. "He'll do his talking when he has to -- he makes sure we're up for games."