Beaulieu back with Knights

RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:42 AM ET

Jacques Beaulieu inked another contract this week to remain the London Knights' assistant coach and handle the defence again.

He'll be wandering back into a forest of giant redwoods.

"It's shaping up to be a huge blue-line," Beaulieu said. "You've got Scott Harrington. Six-foot-one, 200 pounds. Reid McNeill's 6-foot-4, Tommy Hughes at 6-foot-3. Mike D'Orazio's 6-foot-2 and (2010 fourth-round draft pick) Troy Donnay (from Detroit Belle Tire midgets), who I really liked the first time I saw him, is 6-foot-7 and he's not afraid to stand up for his teammates.

"It's starting to look like the '05 (Memorial Cup-winning) D. Big guys like that, they won't be easy to play against."

Barring a growth spurt, Jake Worrad might be the only London back ender under six-feet this fall. Potential over-ager Matt Ashman, also 5-foot-11, was dealt to Saginaw on Tuesday, the day the OHL reopened its trade window, for the Spirit's 35th overall pick in the Canadian Hockey League import draft this month.

There is potential for London's defence to grow even taller.

The Knights hope to sign massive United States national team development program player Jarred Tinordi after the NHL entry draft June 25-26.

Tinordi, whose dad Mark played with London coach Dale Hunter in Washington, captained the gold medal U.S. team at the world under-18 championship.

The 6-foot-5, 205-pounder, a Notre Dame recruit, tested outstanding in several power-related categories at the recent NHL combine in Toronto. He's rated No. 38 overall.

If Tinordi is picked early, it could be easier for GM Mark Hunter to convince him to opt for the OHL route, the same way former Knight John Carlson, Kitchener Ranger John Moore and Tinordi's own U18 teammate -- goalie Jack Campbell, now of the Windsor Spitfires -- did.

Fellow U.S. gold medalist Adam Clendening, another Knights pick, has declared his intention to play defence for Boston University this fall. "He's a longshot (to come to London) right now," Mark Hunter said.

Unlike Tinordi, Knights' leading goal man Jared Knight wasn't invited to the combine.

Pro-actively, he taped his workouts and sent that video and his highlight reels across the pros. About a half-dozen NHL teams called back. Now, he could be scooped up in the first three rounds.

"He's ripped now, he's 200 pounds," Hunter said. "He scored (36) goals last year and he should get 50 this year. That's the next step for him and he's working hard."

To achieve that, Knight will need a puck-moving centre to replace graduating Nazem Kadri, the future Toronto Maple Leaf.

Daniel Erlich is one option. Phil Varone, battling his way back from shoulder surgery, is another. The potential over-ager, back shooting hard and lifting weights at 80% of his former capacity, is heading to San Jose July 12 for a development camp.

"You should have goals to play higher than the level you're at and mine right now is to crack a roster spot in the A (AHL) for the Sharks," the 19-year-old said, "But if they do end up sending me back to London, the Hunters have always been good to me.

"I have a goal, but I'm a realist, too. With my shoulder, I think I only played 29 full games last year and I was only really healthy for something like 15 of them."

Varone had nine goals and 31 points when his season was cut short. "I know some people don't think I can be a 100-point player in this league, but I'm not worried about what other people think. I still think I can do it, given the ice time and a full season, and be a top five guy in this league.

"When you're hurt and watching from the sidelines, you see things a little more fully than when you're playing and just put on some video every once in a while. What I saw were some guys -- Jared, Daniel, Colin Martin, Chris DeSousa and a couple of the younger guys -- with the ability to put up some big points next year."


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