'Grizzled' Hunters need to be leaders

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:12 AM ET

Tucker Hunter has a snappy sense of humour.

He described his role on the London Knights last year in no uncertain terms.

"When John Tavares was up doing his one-man cycle in one end," he said with a grin, "there was ol' Tuck way at the other blue-line making sure we had a forward back for defence."

It's a sizzling one-liner as an introduction.

But the Hunter boys are both 19 now. Grizzled, in OHL terms.

Cousins Tucker and Garett know what's in store this year -- their last OHL season unless they're both brought back as overagers for 2010-11. Time to be leaders instead of followers.

Time to make every shift count in the roles that have been carved out for them.

"Try to be a good third-line guy," said gritty Garett, the son of Knights GM Mark Hunter.

Garett Hunter is destined to help kill penalties and hold opponents accountable.

"We have a lot of '90 birthdates on this team. You do your part. Be more vocal. Help the younger guys, especially during the exhibition season when there's a lot of guys gone."

Tucker, son of head coach Dale Hunter, looked around the John Labatt Centre ice at what's left of a team with almost all of its top-end players at NHL camps. He counted up plenty of Knights hopefuls and a lot of Hunters.

"Obviously, we're going to need some guys to come back but we always feel like the Knights are going to be competitive," Tucker said. "Right now, you want to make the young guys feel welcome. A couple encouraging words can go a long way."

Last year, the Knights had a glut of left-handed shooting forwards. This time, there are two Hunters, a Harrington and three goalies -- Hutchinson, Houser and Heming -- on board.

What the 'H'-eck is going on here?

"Whatever it takes to get the job done," Tucker said with a laugh. "You go out there in these exhibition games and play and it gives you some confidence to carry with you into the season.

"I know I'm not going to score the most goals. But I'll do whatever is asked of me to help this team win."

Garett, in turn, will log more blocked shots than stats. He shrugs off a suggestion he looks more lean, but he has some extra muscle to go with his hustle.

He remained at home in Petrolia this summer and worked out with Knights strength and conditioning coach Lyle Dennis. He also trained with Sarnia pro Dustin Jeffrey, the former Soo Greyhound who played 14 games with the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins last season.

"And I skated in the Sarnia pro summer league," he said. "We had a good group of guys."

Tucker trained with his older brother Dylan, now recovered from a shoulder surgery that cut short his season with Buffalo's American Hockey League affiliate in Portland, Me.

Yesterday, the cousins served as models for the new set of Knights jerseys that Garett's dad Mark led the charge to create. It replaced the look that Tucker's mom Karynka had helped design back when the clan scrapped the Tarry's eggplant and teal.

The sweater style may change but one constant remains.

The Hunter name.

ryan.pyette@sunmedia.ca


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