Stewart riding high

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:00 AM ET

When Chris Stewart arrived at the Kingston Frontenacs training camp in 2004, he set a fairly modest goal.

Make the Ontario Hockey League club as a fourth-line winger, perhaps, and become the team's policeman. But that didn't happen, and Stewart couldn't be happier today.

Instead, the Scarborough native and younger brother of Florida Panthers prospect Anthony Stewart, has become a true prospect himself, settling in at No. 8 in North America in Central Scouting's final rankings.

It's hard to see how Chris Stewart, the highest-ranked GTA native, won't be picked in the first round of the National Hockey League draft tomorrow in Vancouver.

"I thought maybe I would play for three or four years in the OHL, go to school and that would be it," Stewart said. "I never thought I would have a chance to be going in the first round for the show. I thought I was going to be a football player. I definitely would not change a thing for the world."

Stewart, 18, did not play hockey in his OHL draft year, instead deciding to try high school football for West Hill.

Because his brother was with the Frontenacs, Stewart was able to secure an invitation to camp as a walk-on in 2004, though he had to shed some of his 250-pound frame through the summer. Stewart lost 20 pounds and made the Frontenacs on merit, said team general manager Larry Mavety. But it soon became evident Stewart could play.

The 6-foot-2, 228-pound right winger had 30 points in 2004-05, but blossomed this past season, registering 37 goals and 50 assists in 62 games. Stewart, who credited Mavety and former Frontenacs coach Jim Hulton for giving him a shot, rounded it off with 113 penalty minutes. He's seen as a possible power forward in the NHL.

"I would be lying if I said I knew it was going to turn out like this for him," Mavety said. "You have to have talent, and that is a big part of it for him. But the work ethic with him is big, too.

"It was a gradual process. It all came for him in a hurry, and I don't know if Stewie knows how good he can be."

THE DEAL WITH ... GTA PRODUCTS

Chris Stewart is the not the lone GTA native looking to be drafted tomorrow in Vancouver. Here's a glance at some of the other local prospects:

PLAYER
POS.
CLUB
HOMETOWN
CENTRAL SCOUTING RANKING
Bobby Hughes
C
Kingston
Richmond Hill
No. 25 in North America
Matthew Corrente
D
Saginaw
Mississauga
No. 35 in North America
John Armstrong
C/RW
Plymouth
Unionville
No. 51 in North America
Michael Caruso
D
Guelph
Toronto
No. 55 in North America
Shawn Matthias
C
Belleville
Mississauga
No. 62 in North America
Theo Peckham
D
Owen Sound
Richmond
Hill
No. 65 in North America
John de
Gray
D
Brampton
Richmond
Hill
No. 68 in North America
John Hughes
C
Belleville
Whitby
No. 70 in North America
Ryan Daniels
G
Saginaw
Scarborough
No. 5 among goalies in N. America
Steve Mason
G
London
Oakville
No. 9 among goalies in N. America

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