Better draft days ahead

, Last Updated: 10:24 AM ET

When London Knights general manager Mark Hunter traded one of his second-round picks in the OHL draft Saturday for two picks next year, it was a defining statement.

Hunter likes next year's draft better than this year's. That's obvious as he earlier said how excited he was to have two second-round picks this year, the first time in three years he had a second-round choice.

"The draft is always a crapshoot," he said after assessing this draft. "From everything we hear, we really like next year's draft. We didn't like the depth in this year's."

London traded the first of its two second-round picks, 39th overall, to Sudbury. The Knights got a second- and third-round pick for next year.

Besides their first pick, the Knights now have two second-round and two third-round picks in what's going to be a very strong draft, especially locally. Early rankings have as many as six in the first 50.

The Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs have four. Drew Collinson, Greg McKegg, Steven Shipley and Brandon Stewart are highly rated, as is Pieter Schinkelshoek with the London Junior Knights minor midgets.

Why worry about a draft a year away?

That's how good teams are built. While the Knights might have gotten a player who can play at 39th overall, there's a better chance they'll get two who can play in next year's draft. Sudbury stocked up this season for a run at a championship and may not be as good next year. It's a good deal because it may improve the Knights' fate in the selection order.

The Knights were adventuresome in this draft.

Selecting last in the first round for the fourth straight year, they did the unconventional and took a goalie, Toronto Marlies minor midget Michael Zador.

The Knights really liked big American defenceman Beau Schmitz. But he's committed to the U.S. under-17 program and Hunter knew he couldn't get him to come this year.

Hunter was also interested in Cam Fowler, also committed to the U.S. under-17 team.

But both players were gone before the Knights had to make a decision on whether to take the risk.

Zador was always on the Knights' radar screen.

"He was an option we were leaning towards all along," Hunter said. "We didn't know if he would fall to us, but when the other guys were gone, we had no trouble taking him."

A door closes and a window opens. Hunter had a eye on a goalie in the Canadian Hockey League European draft later this month. With the Knights taking Zador, they'll now look to a forward or defenceman.

How did the Knights do in the draft? Who knows. Every team will say they they got the players they wanted.

Truth is, it may be two years before anyone really knows how good a draft is. One of the the best draft the Knights ever had was 2001. They had seven picks in the first six rounds. Six of those were Corey Perry, Dylan Hunter, Gerald Coleman, Kyle Quincey, Danny Syvret and Marc Methot.

Quincey became Rob Schremp but several didn't develop until 2003.

Look for Hunter to do a lot of work outside the draft, looking at free agents and trying to entice some players from previous drafts to come and play here.

Look for the work he did to position himself for next year's draft to benefit the Knights for years to come.


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