Smith continues family affair

RYAN PYETTE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:39 AM ET

Barron Smith can feel it.

He's going to get taller.

That would be like adding another floor to a skyscraper. But it's coming -- his father Steve, a large man when he started in the junior ranks with the London Knights nearly 30 years ago, shot up an extra inch in height after getting drafted to the NHL.

"I know I'm not done growing yet," said Barron, a 17-year-old defenceman from the Chicago area and one of the largest lads in London's training camp. "I was measured at six-foot-four at mini-camp and now, I'm six-four-and-a-half."

The Knights, OHL, massive training camp numbers are all new to Smith. But there's a certain familiarity to it.

"My dad was here and it's somewhere I wanted to play my whole life," said Barron, London's fourth-round pick in the 2007 draft. "I was a fan of whoever my dad played for (Edmonton, Chicago, Calgary), but since I was 10 years old, I had the Knights up as my wallpaper (on the computer).

He's in an increasingly familiar position as the offspring of a recognizable NHLer. He has heard all the tales -- his father had a colourful career that included Stanley Cups, an unforgettable and costly own goal in the 1986 playoffs and enough major injuries that would make the Knievel family wince.

But the last name is not a burden Smith shares alone. London GM Mark Hunter is rather fond of drafting players with NHL puck pedigree.

Phil McRae's dad, Basil, also played for the Knights. There are two Hunters on the team (Garett and Tucker) and a third -- cousin Brock -- is in camp. Steve (Stumpy) Thomas' son Christian was the club's first rounder this past spring. Smith should fit in just fine.

"My dad's told me the same thing my whole life," Barron said. "Work harder. That's pretty much all he told me.

"I worked out every day but Sunday all summer. I feel ready."

He and fellow American John Carlson, an NHL first rounder, give the Knights something they didn't have a lot of last year -- size at the back end. With plenty of returnees, Smith knows he's in for an ice time battle.

But that's nothing new.

"Last year, I played 41 games (for the United States Hockey League's Chicago Steel)," he said. "We carried seven defenceman and I was always in a battle for that sixth spot. I was one of the youngest guys in the league and the guy I had to fight for that spot was bigger than me."

But not for much longer.

Smith knows he will draw comparisons to his father. After all, some of the fans that will watch him play for the next few years are the same ones that saw Steve skate at the former Ice House.

But the elder Smith spent some of his junior days on right wing. Don't expect the same from his son.

"I'll join the rush if I need to but I'm mostly a stay-at-home defenceman," Barron said. "I know it's going to be difficult. It's a new league. There's a lot to learn. I thought it was a good move to play in the USHL last year. It left my NCAA eligibility open so I could decide what to do -- and in the end I wanted to come here.

"The USHL is like college hockey style. The OHL is a pro hockey style."

There's also a few familiar faces, including one guy who's an old friend.

"I knew Daniel Erlich from minor hockey and our team (Chicago Mission) would play his (Toronto) Marlies all the time," Smith said. "We always had some great battles."

KNIGHTS CAMP

Today: Black and white scrimmage, 2:15-4:15 p.m. at the John Labatt Centre (open to public through Gate 4)

Tomorrow: First of six preseason games -- vs. Sarnia Sting, 7:30 p.m. at the JLC


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