Knights like their chances with McRae

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 11:15 AM ET

First-rounder Philip McRae says he's going to be a London Knight some day.

But the son of Knights minority owner and ex-NHLer Basil McRae doesn't know if "some day" will come sooner, as in next season, or later, as in the 2007-08 OHL campaign.

London GM Mark Hunter grabbed the six-foot, 175-pounder from Chesterfield, Miss., with the 20th pick in the league draft yesterday morning.

McRae, who had been the lone 15-year-old playing for the United States under-17 team this year, warned OHL teams there was a possibility he wouldn't report -- but he had always been enthusiastic about London.

"I was just really excited because that's the team I know and that's where I wanted to go," McRae said. "I haven't made a decision yet. I have another year commitment with (the U.S. national development program based in Ann Arbour, Mich.) so I still could go back there and then come to London the following year.

"I'll probably be in London for the (Knights-Petes OHL final) game on Tuesday or Friday. I went to the Memorial Cup last year and (the John Labatt Centre) was the first junior rink I had seen. It was unreal."

To sweeten the pot, Hunter picked McRae's pal Kevin Bodker of the Dubuque Thunderbirds in the fourth round. McRae and Bodker played together with the St. Louis Junior Blues a couple of years ago and won a U.S. title over American powerhouse Shattuck St. Mary's.

"It works both ways," Mark Hunter said. "You want to make it as comfortable as you can for him."

McRae's father Basil was with the rest of the Knights brass at the JLC yesterday morning for the draft. The former hard-nosed pro player was teased that his son, who scored seven goals and added 11 points in 41 games, only registered nine penalty minutes this season.

"He's more like his mother than me," Basil McRae said. "We don't know what he's going to do yet but he has all the information. I played in London and he (Philip) knows all about this team. Mark will talk to him and (Philip) will decide where he wants to play next year."

The Knights kept the team a family affair by taking head coach Dale Hunter's son Tucker with their second selection after trading up for Belleville's third-round pick (52nd overall) in exchange for a third- and a fifth- round pick in 2008. Mark Hunter picked his son Garrett with London's sixth-round selection so current captain Dylan Hunter won't be the only Knight to experience the pressure of playing for his father's team.

London also wanted to draft head scout John McDonald's grandson Steven with the 17th pick of the fourth round but the Plymouth Whalers got him just before the Knights' turn.

"We liked him (McDonald) but we didn't get him," Mark Hunter said.

The picks reinforce the notion the Hunters aren't planning on selling the Knights anytime soon. It's been a tough year for GMs to convince prospective players to report and knowing the identity of a team's coach and management is of primary concern to the young skaters.

"I can guarantee you we're not going anywhere," Mark Hunter said.

While London was picking its own kin, rival Kitchener grabbed 15-year-old London Junior Knights scoring star Nazem Kadri with its first-round pick (18th overall) and plucked teammate Jamie Commerford in the third round (58th overall).

Of note, Sudbury picked Jared Staal with the 11th pick in the first round and he could end up playing with brother Marc, a Wolves defenceman. Peterborough's Jordan Staal is playing against the Knights in the OHL final and older brother Eric is a star with the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes.


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