Ex-Canadian mate now a foe to Tavares

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:54 AM ET

OSHAWA -- They spent nearly a month in the same dressing room.

They passed the puck around on Canada's devastating power play.

At the end of their Ottawa excursion, they celebrated a world junior gold medal.

But the whole time, defenceman Ryan Ellis saw how Canadian world junior teammate John Tavares handled himself. He gathered information on what made the best player in major junior hockey tick.

Now that he's back in Windsor and Tavares has landed in London, don't expect Ellis to keep those secrets to himself.

That's what level this bubbling Knights-Spitfires rivalry is reaching -- Spy vs. Spy.

"You like to think you've learned a few things from watching Johnny and playing with him and definitely, I'm going to share anything I can with the guys on my team," said Ellis, again hanging with the newest Knights star in the leadup to the Canadian Hockey League's top prospects game tomorrow at Oshawa's General Motors Centre.

"But obviously, everyone knows what to expect because he's such a great player and everyone can see for themselves what he does out there.

"It'll be up to us to contain him."

After all, Tavares is now a threat to Ellis. For both, the road to the Memorial Cup won't be travelled without crossing paths.

The Spitfires did their best to land Tavares before Friday's OHL trade deadline. Had they managed it, there would be little question who were the favourites to win the championship.

Instead, Windsor GM Warren Rychel succeeded in driving up the price London GM Mark Hunter had to pay to pry Tavares from the Gens.

"It would've been great if we got John but London did what they had to do in getting him and Michael Del Zotto too," Ellis said. "They improved their team, we added some more toughness and skill, and it just makes it more exciting.

"Now everyone can't wait for the playoffs. When the two teams meet, it's going to be unbelievable."

The head-to-head tilt happens first Feb. 6 at the John Labatt Centre. For Tavares' new Knights teammate and fellow top prospect Nazem Kadri, it will mark the first clash of what's going to be a two-horse match race for the Western Conference crown.

"Windsor went out and got Shu (ex-Kitchener captain Ben Shutron), Timmy (forward Scott Timmins) and Josh (goalie Josh Unice) and I couldn't just let those guys waltz to another Memorial Cup (tournament)," said former Ranger Kadri, who will play for Team Cherry tomorrow against Tavares' Team Orr. "We had to do something. The Knights are an unbelievable organization and picking up Johnny was just a bonus."

This has been a whirlwind week for Tavares. Last Monday, he played for world junior gold against Sweden.

He suited up in his last game for Oshawa last Wednesday, arrived in London Friday, watched his new team smash his old one, then had two goals and an assist in his debut on Sunday.

Tavares, who reaffirmed his top ranking with NHL Central Scouting yesterday, and Kadri met at 7:30 a.m. for the ride to Oshawa, where he'll say his final emotional goodbyes at the General Motors Centre tomorrow.

"I knew it was going to be a busy week," he said. "That's why I tried to take care of myself. I managed to get some sleep after what was a big win (in London Sunday). I watched what I ate. I know this is an important game with all these great players here and I know I'll see a lot of familiar faces here.

"I want to do what I have to do here and it's going to be fun. Then it's back to London and obviously, with the team we have and the opportunity in front of us, the goal will be to win (the Memorial Cup)."


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