Knights acquire Bulls picks for Pelech

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:26 AM ET

After just a half-season, the London Knights are no longer bullish on big defenceman Matt Pelech.

The OHL finalists shipped the 18-year-old Toronto native -- a 2005 first-round selection (26th overall) of the Calgary Flames -- to the Belleville Bulls yesterday for a bunch of picks in the next two drafts.

Until Pelech plays a game for Belleville -- and he has already said he'll report -- London's only compensation is a conditional 15th-rounder in 2009. But when he plays, the Knights will have second- and fourth-round picks in 2007 and get back their own third- and fifth-round selections in 2008 that they traded last month to the Bulls for Saginaw's third-round pick this summer (which turned into the drafting of Tucker Hunter, head coach Dale Hunter's son).

"It was nothing against Matt but I was running low on draft picks," said Knights GM Mark Hunter. Bulls GM-coach George Burnett "is putting together a good team but I had to restock my supply of picks because I'd let them go the past couple of years. I didn't have a second- or fourth-round pick next year and we felt we needed one."

Pelech, a six-foot-five, 222-pounder, arrived in London in December from the Sarnia Sting for blue-liners Steve Ferry and Matt McCready as the Knights declared a commitment to chase a second straight title. Pelech scored a goal and added seven assists in 34 games in the regular season, then went pointless in a 19-game playoff run to the OHL final.

Many have rejected Pelech's mobility and his ability to defend speedy forwards in his own end, which could be a challenge on the big ice in Belleville.

Others point to frequent injuries early in his career in Sarnia as a reason to cut him loose. But nobody who watched him with the Knights would question his pain tolerance. Pelech blocked a puck with his mouth during a game in Kitchener in February, then returned to finish the third period in an inspirational Knights victory.

With Pelech gone and Frank Rediker graduated, the defence won't boast a lot of big guys this fall. It could get even smaller if the Knights don't use six-foot-five Ryan Martinelli as an over-age player.

On the offensive side, Hunter has a positive feeling about high-scoring forward Sergei Kostitsyn returning next season, although he wouldn't take it to the bank just yet.

"He left all of his stuff here," Hunter said. "That's usually a good sign. I have a call in to his agent right now."

Kostitsyn, 19, a Montreal Canadiens draft pick, was recently named London's top playoff performer and finished the regular season as top rookie scorer -- with one more point than Oshawa phenom John Tavares.

Former NHLer Dave Gagner, father of rookie forward Sam Gagner, hasn't signed as an assistant coach but both sides have expressed interest in making it happen soon.

"We want him," Hunter said, "but there's nothing done yet."

Spitfires relaunch

Windsor Spitfires co-owner, president and CEO Bob Boughner has appointed himself head coach of his hometown team.

Spits co-owners Warren Rychel and Peter Dobrich will be the GM and team governor, respectively.

Bill Bowler and D.J. Smith, who acted as co-coaches after Moe Mantha was fired early last season, will remain with the Spitfires as assistant coaches.


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