Knights' rookie happy to share burden

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:40 AM ET

For much of this OHL season, rookie Scott Aarssen had been an unexpected anchor on the London Knights defence.

Fortunately, reinforcements have been put in place and the 17-year-old Londoner is more than happy to share much of the weight.

While Aarssen and fellow former St. Thomas Star Ryan Martinelli logged a ton of responsibility early in the season, the arrival of Matt Pelech from Sarnia, David Halasz from Oshawa and the re-emergence of Frank Rediker has eased the pressure on the Knights' blue-line.

Halasz, in particular, gives London speed at its back end and Rediker, who claims his knee is feeling as good as it has in years, is skating like he did when he first came into the league with the Windsor Spitfires.

"The biggest thing is it cuts down on the ice time. It spreads it out between more guys," Aarssen said last night. "You do notice Frank has looked really good out there lately. He's making some rushes with the puck and playing hard like he always did. David is a good guy . . . and he really helps us out.

"When you add experienced guys like that, it's only going to help."

Other than Pelech, London doesn't have a bunch of flashy NHL first-round blue-liners like Kitchener, their opponent last night.

Pelech, a Calgary first-rounder, was watched closely by Flames scouts Tom Webster and Ron Sutter from the John Labatt Centre press box last night. The Rangers boast three first-rounders in Matt Lashoff (Boston), Jakub Kindl (Detroit) and Boris Valabik (Atlanta), plus a third-rounder in captain Mark Fraser (New Jersey).

"It's motivating because when we beat them, it shows that our defence is pretty good, too," Aarssen said.

The steady five-foot-10, 192-pounder entered last night's game with a plus-18 rating, second-best for OHL rookies.

"I'm proud of it. When you're a defenceman on this team, you're not going to get on the power play, so your offensive numbers aren't going to show up as much," said Aarssen, whose two goals have both been overtime winners this year. "It shows you're not getting scored on in five-on-five or four-on-four situations and that's what you're looking for."

The numbers show the recent improvement in the London defence -- the Knights have surrendered only eight goals in three games.

Sunday in Mississauga, goalie Steve Mason kicked out a couple of long rebounds, but the Knights gobbled up the puck quickly and made sure the IceDogs didn't get extra chances.

"That's what we're trying to do every game," Aarssen said. "We feel like we're coming together as a group. (assistant coach) Jacques (Beaulieu) gets on us when he has to and points out our mistakes right away. If you don't worry about the little things, they could turn into big things in a hurry."


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