Brandon Prust said he developed a soft spot for the Calgary Flames while watching that hard-working, underdog team advance to the Stanley Cup final this spring.
This weekend, that spot got even softer after the Flames selected the the 20-year-old Londoner and rugged Knights forward with a third-round pick (70th overall) in the NHL entry draft Saturday in Raleigh, N.C.
"I watched them and how Canada sort of adopted them, They're my kind of team," Prust said yesterday after a round of golf in Myrtle Beach, S.C. "It was an overwhelming feeling, a big surprise -- I didn't expect to be picked (in the first three rounds) Saturday.
"It's very rewarding. I didn't get drafted to the OHL, I was a walk-on with the Knights and I had to make my way onto the team. I know I have to work even harder this summer before (Flames rookie) camp in August."
Last season with London, the five-foot-11, 195-pound Prust piled up 269 penalty minutes but also showed an offensive touch with 52 points (19-33) in 64 games.
Eight of Calgary's 10 draft selections were North American and only two of them --including Prust -- are under six feet tall.
"This guy kept catching our eye all year," Todd Button, Calgary's director of scouting, said. "He's not a heavyweight fighter, just a momentum changer who protects his teammates. We look at him as a guy Darryl (coach and GM Darryl Sutter) would love to have.
"You can compare him to (Nashville's) Scott Walker, a guy who can fight and score big goals."
"I'd rather they compared me to Jarome Iginla," Prust quipped. "That's where I want to be. But that's nice (the Walker comparison), he's a leader, he's got a great work ethic, and he hits, fights and scores goals."
Prust's selection by the southern Alberta squad means he'll be heading to camp in the same province as Knights teammate and controversial draft subject Rob Schremp, who was picked in the first round (25th overall) by Edmonton.
Entering the weekend, Schremp was ranked fifth overall by the independent International Scouting Services.
However, many feel he dropped lower because some teams saw him as a bad apple for demanding (and getting) a trade during the season and being benched by Dale Hunter in Game 7 of the Ontario Hockey League Western Conference final against Guelph.
"I guess Edmonton will find out what kind of kid I am," said Schremp, who had a cheering section of 130 family and friends at the draft. "They drafted me.
"I'll come to training camp and they'll see. I don't see the negative part, but obviously some people do and I'll prove them wrong."
It was a big weekend for the Knights and London area talent.
Dave Bolland (Chicago, second round, 32nd overall), Trevor Kell (Chicago, fifth round), Woodstock native Ryan Pottruff (Carolina, seventh round) and Dylan Hunter (Buffalo, ninth round) joined teammates Prust and Schremp in this year's draft.