Speed could take Drummond places fast

JIM KERNAGHAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:24 AM ET

Speed kills, true enough. On highways, recreational pharmaceuticals and hockey rinks, it can put you right away.

If you happen to be facing it on ice, you don't need to be reminded. In the so-called "new NHL," we're seeing it every night of the playoffs.

All of which brings us to a young fellow who has lots of superior pace, one Robbie Drummond. Undrafted before new NHL rules placed a premium on speed and guile, the local lad could well be a steal for some alert NHL team. A couple have already called Knights general manager Mark Hunter.

You could say the former South student is the beneficiary of a confluence of events, one positive, one, at first blush, not.

There's the new NHL emphasis on rules that prevent fast guys from being dragged back into school-zone speeds by the hooks and holds of out-footed opponents.

It's the same in the OHL. The premium on guys with superior speed shot skyward.

Conversely, Drummond happens to be on a team deep in scoring strength. He'd be a top line guy with most junior teams, but London's offensive depth consigned him largely to a checking role.

But wait, that's becoming a plus, too. Along with Josh Beaulieu and Trevor Kell, the line has become the playoff equal of the scoring lines in importance as they face the opponent's top line each night.

Relieved of his shadow role briefly as a replacement for high-scoring David Bolland when he was suspended, Drummond responded with some big goals, including a hat-trick, to account for eight playoff scores.

Some NHL team, therefore, will get a guy who can score and check. Drummond is the fastest skater on the Knights and would definitely be in the top percentile of speedsters in the NHL right now.

You can teach a lot of things in sports, but speed isn't one of them. A player can maximize what he already has, but nobody has yet discovered how to put after-burners on a person with modest pace.

Hunter was commenting on that yesterday and noted: "If I could skate like that, I'd still be in the NHL."

A second later, Hunter popped his head out and added with a laugh, "Wait, let's not get carried away."

The point is, the kid who grew up watching the Knights has really fast wheels. Of course, Drummond would love to be called upon to use his offensive prowess. Of course, he'd love to get lots of attack ice time.

But he understands the gravity of the role he and his linemates have been handed and how critical it is to the team dynamic. He's happy to be where he is at this moment.

"I always wanted to play in the OHL, but I never expected to be with the Knights," Drummond said. "It was kind of a dream come true."

It has enabled him to live at home, stay close to all his friends and family, attend the University of Western Ontario. And with a rather packed team that won the last Memorial Cup and has its sights set on another as the start of the OHL final against Peterborough Petes looms Friday, this is a chance to play a more complete game.

"It's given me a better opportunity to show my skills. It has become a skater's game and I've had the chance to play both an offensive and defensive role. If we can limit their top line's scoring chances, it's always important."

The 2002 second-round Knights pick and his linemates undoubtedly will get the checking assignment on the top Peterborough lines.

"They have three solid lines and I don't think we've faced that yet (in these playoffs)," he said.

The Petes haven't seen Drummond's kind of speed often, either.


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