OHL scouts scope out Junior Knights

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:01 AM ET

The London Junior Knights minor midget AAA team will head to one of the premier hockey tournaments in the the province Thursday, an event that will determine the immediate futures of most of the best young players in the province.

The 15-year-olds are in the OHL Cup, the showcase event that will see dozens of junior and NCAA scouts look over the available talent. While the NCAA scouts still have to wait a couple of years before they can get their hands on these players, the OHL scouts will be evaluating talent for the May draft.

"The one thing I point out, is that the bosses come to watch, the (general managers) the coaches," Junior Knights coach John Caldarozzi said. "If you can impress one of them, chances are when they sit in a room the first week in May, they remember. I know the scouts lay the foundation, but it's the bosses that make the decisions and get things done."

Caldarozzi's team is getting a second chance to show its talent. They were eliminated in the Minor Hockey Alliance semifinals. But the tournament expanded from 16 to 20 teams, allowing the association winners and runners-up to come to the event but also four at-large teams selected by Central scouting. The Junior Knights are one of those four.

"You're always hoping you get picked," Caldarozzi said. "Once we got to the semifinals against Cambridge, we were ranked 10th by OHL Central Scouting, I thought we had a good chance. But if this had been last year, we wouldn't have qualified."

"What's ironic is this group has as good a chance to win this tournament as any other team we've coached. There's no dominant hockey team this year. There's lots of really good teams. Last year, Markham had the two top picks in the OHL draft (Michael Del Zotto and Steve Stamkos). All your ducks have to be in order to beat a team of that quality.

"But this group, any team that gets outstanding goaltending or timely goals, or good discipline, could take you right to the final."

There are a number of Junior Knights minor midgets on the OHL's radar screen. Colin Martin has more than 50 goals this year; Robbie Flick, Josh Sidwell, Matt Coutts, Stephen Gaskin, Brock Reynolds and Anthony Donati are others who will likely get drafted. But this is a tournament that gives players who aren't rated a chance to impress.

Caldarozzi said two of his most recent players -- Dominic Desando, who has played this year with the London Nationals junior Bs, and Matt Sherry, who was drafted by Windsor Spitfires but is playing with the Junior Knights midgets -- had strong tournaments and were drafted as a result.

"We're guaranteed four more games, so it's four more job interviews for the kids," Caldarozzi said.

The tournament is being held at the Hershey Centre in Mississauga.

The Junior Knights have a number of teams still in the running for Alliance and provincial championships.

The midgets are in a battle for their lives, trailing Waterloo in a six-point series 5-1 in the Alliance final with Game 4 last night.

Waterloo is playing host to the Central Region championships so regardless of outcome, the midgets will get a chance to play for that title as Alliance representatives.

Coach Chuck Dufton has done a great job with the program, convincing individuals that not getting drafted as minor midgets was not the end of the hockey road for them.

"(Midget hockey) used to be a tough sell but not so much any more," Dufton said. "People figure once they get through their minor midget year and they don't get drafted, it's over. It's not. I guess, one example that comes to mind is Glen McCarron. He wasn't drafted and played two full years of midget. He got a job with the (junior B) Nats this year and played some games with the London Knights (scoring two goals)."

The Junior Knights have a slew of AA teams still in playdowns, including both Green and Gold teams in minor and major atom, minor peewee, minor and major bantam.

The Junior Knights also have teams playing for championships in the minor peewee, major bantam and minor midget categories.


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