Draft vault open for Tavares

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:12 AM ET

London Knights general manager Mark Hunter spent four years restocking the Ontario Hockey League draft picks he traded away for players he needed to win the 2005 Memorial Cup.

Now that the cupboard is again filled, he's willing to empty it for Oshawa Generals scoring star John Tavares, named OHL top player for the second week in a row.

The Knights have discussed an offer with Oshawa general manager and head coach Chris DePiero for the team's 18-year-old all-time goals king.

But the Knights are trying to add him without subtracting much off their current roster.

"Mostly draft picks," Mark Hunter said. "I have a ton of them. They can have all the draft picks they want. But I don't know what (DePiero) is going to do.

"I've said all along they might hold onto him. They might not trade him."

It's unlikely Tavares will move before he departs for the Canadian world junior selection camp in Ottawa on Thursday. At that point, there's an OHL-mandated trade freeze until the end of the world juniors -- the so-called Steve Mason Rule -- so he won't find out he has a new address while trying to win this country a gold medal.

It will be interesting to see how the Gens fare without Tavares in the lineup.

"I'm still trying to get a feel for what the market is," Hunter said. "I still don't know what they want yet."

London forward Nazem Kadri, recovering from a broken jaw, will join Tavares in Ottawa, but it will be up to Hockey Canada doctors to decide if he stays for camp. It's a similar situation to Mason two years ago after suffering concussion-like symptoms in Windsor before the tryout.

"If everyone remembers, Mase did fly out to Calgary and got looked at by Hockey Canada doctors and they said it was a no-go and sent him home," Hunter said. "We'll wait to see what they say about Naz."

If he is sent back to London, that would create a pre-Christmas dilemma for the Knights, who will have to decide whether to activate him or shut him down until after the holiday.

The Knights do need some help with roster numbers. They will be short a defenceman after Steve Tarasuk engaged in the second fight during the same stoppage in Saturday night's 6-5 win at Owen Sound. Tarasuk also injured his hand in the same game, so he is unlikely to play at all this weekend.

Forward Tucker Hunter, the OHL Midwest Division's scholastic player of the month who said "gym is bringing down" his 90-per-cent average in high school, will also sit two games for a fight during that same melee.

Tucker's cousin Garett Hunter is still out with a knee injury and defenceman Vladimir Roth missed the weekend games with a charleyhorse. It's not the perfect situation heading into back-to-back games against Belleville and Windsor, but the Knights aren't writing them off.

The Bulls and Spitfires will be missing big-time players, too. The contests simply won't be the yardstick needed to judge whether a team is a championship contender.

"Every game means something," Mark Hunter said. "We have a ton of injuries right now, but this gives guys like (rookies) Christian Thomas and Jared Knight the chance to play more important minutes."

After bagging the win in Owen Sound and three games in 2 1/2 days coming up on the schedule, sophomore goalie Michael Zador is expected to get another start. The 17-year-old allowed five goals, but made a couple of significant saves to allow the Knights to come from behind.

"It's the happiest I've seen Dale (head coach Dale Hunter) with him so far," Mark Hunter said.

KNIGHTWATCH

Friday: vs. Belleville, 7:30 p.m. at the John Labatt Centre. It's Sun Life Financial Teddy Bear Toss Night.

Saturday: at Windsor, 7:05 p.m.

Sunday: vs. Sarnia, 2 p.m. at the JLC


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