October 12, 2017 4:46 pm

London Knights acquire new defenceman all the way from Prince George

Mike Stubbs/AM980
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For just over three years, the shortest road trip Shane Collins took as a member of the Prince George Cougars was five hours. One way.

As an overage defenceman, he brings a long resume of experience to the London Knights and is only too happy to see his time spent shuttling between hockey cities shrink considerably.

The Knights acquired Collins in a follow-the-bouncing-ball scenario on Thursday before their game against the Windsor Spitfires.

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Collins was one of six overage players on the Cougars’ roster and with the deadline to be down to a maximum of four 20-year-old players looming on October 15, Prince George was forced to make a couple of moves.

One of those made Collins available and his rights were nabbed by the Barrie Colts. Barrie then dealt the Rosetown, Sask. native to London for a 14th  round draft pick.

After a fast flight from west to east, Collins is set to make his Ontario Hockey League debut after another two-hour jaunt from London to Windsor.

“He will be in the lineup tonight,” confirmed Knights’ assistant coach, Rick Steadman. “We’ll start him slow because he just got in this morning, but we’ll see how much he can give us.”

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Collins isn’t the kind of person who usually sits back in any kind of situation. He grew up as an only child on a Saskatchewan farm, so there weren’t many extra hands to share the load when it came to doing chores. He is the first guy in the weight room (and usually the last one out) and he does not back to against anyone on the ice.

Knights’ general manager, Rob Simpson likes the fact that Collins has been through some wear and tear in his hockey career.

“It gives us veteran experience on our back end after losing (Olli) Juolevi and (Victor) Mete and (Brandon) Crawley,” said Simpson. “It is tough to replace those guys. Collins gives us someone who has played a lot of years of major junior, has experience, has been through playoffs and hopefully provides a calming factor.”

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Juolevi is in Finland and has no chance of returning to London. Crawley is playing for the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League after being drafted by the New York Rangers in June and is giving the Rangers’ organization no reason to send him anywhere else.

Simpson admits Mete’s status is still up in the air. The 19-year old has played four games for the Montreal Canadiens alongside Shea Weber, one of the best D-men in the National Hockey League.

If you dig into advanced stats, Mete is performing well when it comes to getting the puck out of his zone and into the offensive zone and as simplistic as it sounds, that kind of thing makes teams very happy. The Woodbridge native can play up to nine games without impacting his contract status in Montreal. Only the Canadiens can make the determination of where he will play the entire year and things like one-way contracts will play a factor.

The Canadiens have a number of those among the defencemen on their roster and would have to risk losing a player to send him down. Even if that happened, a player on a one-way deal would earn his NHL salary in the minors. Teams sometimes shy away from that. Montreal still has time, but ultimately will have to choose between the NHL and the OHL for Mete. Those are his only two options.

Bringing in Collins also presents a new situation for the Knights. They now have four overagers, which is fine for the October 15 deadline, but a team can only dress three per game. Simpson says the Knights have no problem letting that scenario play out for awhile.

“We have time. A lot of teams go with four throughout the season and use them in a rotation and you can make it work while you are evaluating your team to see where you are at.”

London does not have to be down to three 20-year-olds until January.

In the meantime, their focus shifts to Windsor and the Spitfires. The Spits will raise their 2017 Memorial Cup championship banner before the game and then the teams will play the first half of a home and home that will act as a baptism of fire into the Knights/Windsor rivalry for a guy like Collins who knows as much about that as hockey fans in Southwestern Ontario know about Prince George’s biggest rivals.

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Steadman says it will happen slowly.

“You take it step by step. We have seen him on video. We know what he can do. It’s just a matter of him getting comfortable.”

For a London team looking for a victory, that is the mantra that may stretch beyond just the new guy.

You can hear coverage of London at Windsor beginning at 6:30 on AM980, at www.am980.ca and on the Radioplayer Canada app.

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