Knights expect Kostitsyn back

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:33 AM ET

London Knights general manager Mark Hunter isn't surprised Sergei Kostitsyn told the Montreal Gazette he wants to play for the Canadiens' farm team in Hamilton this season.

He would have done the same thing if he was the 19-year-old Belarussian.

"When I was drafted (seventh overall by Montreal in 1981), my goal was to play in the NHL, so I was focused on getting to the pros," Hunter said. "You'd always say you want to play at the highest level possible and you should go into training camp with that attitude. If you get sent down, then you deal with it, but you should always feel like you can play at the top."

Kostitsyn, who led OHL rookie scoring last season and was a force for the Knights in the playoffs, recently said: "I like London, but I want to play in Hamilton."

Though junior-aged players must be returned to their teams if they don't crack the big club, the six-foot-one, 190-pounder is exempt from that rule because he was drafted by Montreal before coming to North America to play junior.

That makes the Habs' seventh-round pick in 2005 eligible to play for the Hamilton Bulldogs in the American Hockey League, if he's ready -- and there's talk in the Montreal camp some believe he can make the jump.

To add to the intrigue, Kostitsyn's brother, Andrei, is also a Montreal prospect who spent time with the Canadiens last year, but played the bulk of his season in Hamilton.

The Knights aren't concerned about the chatter and are holding to what they have heard from the Habs.

"Unless something has changed, we've been told he's coming back," Hunter said.

London native and defenceman Ryan Martinelli, vying for one of the Knights' over-age spots, returned yesterday after attending rookie camp with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Veteran forward Jamie VanderVeeken, released by the Knights during training camp, has caught on with the Woodstock (N.B.) Subway Slammers of the Maritime junior A league. Goalie Chris Abbey, dealt to London from Sudbury, may play for Brantford in the Midwestern junior B league.


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