Montgomery rejoins Knights

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:53 AM ET

Suddenly, the London Knights defence is looking downright Ducky.

Colorado Avalanche prospect Kevin Montgomery has been returned to London and will play tonight in Owen Sound. Washington Capitals first-rounder John Carlson, who missed three games with a bruised shoulder, is ready to come off the injured list.

Together, they could form one of the best blue-lines in the OHL.

"It'll be like having (Anaheim's Chris) Pronger and (Scott) Niedermayer on the same team," said London assistant coach Pat Curcio, who runs the back end of the Knights' bench. "It's tremendously exciting for us to have Kevin in the lineup. Potentially, we could have either him or John on the ice the whole game."

Carlson is a hopeful for the U.S. world junior team next month. Montgomery played for the U.S. in the tournament last year.

The 20-year-old from Rochester, N.Y., has bulked up to 195 pounds and started this season with the AHL's Lake Erie Monsters, drawing one assist in five games.

"He got an American Hockey League contract and they don't just hand those out like candy," London GM Mark Hunter said. "He earned it. He has nothing to be ashamed of. They (Colorado) just had a lot of guys under contract this year and we were lucky enough to get him back for our hockey club."

Colorado's vice-president of hockey operations is London native Craig Billington. His father Bill still helps out with game-day operations at the John Labatt Centre.

Montgomery's presence is a surprise largely because of the Knights' recent history. Top scorers Sam Gagner, Pat Kane and Pat Maroon didn't come back, which forced the club to get used to moving on quickly.

But now Mark Hunter has some difficult decisions to make. As an over-ager, Montgomery returns to a team that already has three 20-year-old players -- captain Scott Aarssen, defenceman Matt Clarke and goalie Jason Guy -- in the lineup.

London could carry four for a couple of weeks but can play only three at once time. For a team that has lost two of its past three games and has three of its most intimidating players suspended, having too much of something is a nice problem right now.

"We're looking at it right now," Mark Hunter said. "I'm not a big believer in having guys sit out for any length of time. We'd like to have everything straightened out by this weekend."

Montgomery is the kind of puck-carrying defenceman who can put a good team over the top. This will be in his third OHL season after recording nine goals and 43 points in 63 games last year.

Aarssen, a London native, is in his fourth full campaign with the Knights. He has been the team's captain since Hunter dealt Adam Perry to the Belleville Bulls in January.

"He's (Aarssen) playing better than he did last year," Hunter said. "He's really picked up his game."

So has Clarke. The smooth-skating Londoner has finally adjusted to full-time defensive duties and he's having the best offensive season of his four-year OHL career with five goals and 12 points.

"He's played very well," Hunter said. "It's not just two guys (Carlson and Montgomery) back there. We have some other pretty good D, too. Tarasuk's there and Vladimir Roth is coming around, too."

Scott Valentine and Barron Smith are also angling for increased ice time.

That leaves Guy. The Whitby native, originally drafted by the Knights in 2004, knew he had limited time this year to cement himself as the team's No. 1 goalie. He has enjoyed the majority of the starts so far and is among the league's top 10 statistical leaders at the quarter-point of the season.

To justify his spot on the roster, the Knights would have to continue to play him every game. Over-agers aren't on the roster to sit out.

"We'll have to see what happens," Hunter said.

For all four players' benefit, Montgomery's return means a move will have to be made sooner than later.


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