Graham Knott absorbed a lesson in not taking success for granted while his Niagara IceDogs were struggling at the start of the season.
Niagara, bolstered by the likes of Josh Ho-Sang, Carter Verhaeghe and young stalwarts such as Knott, a two-way winger, has played .667 hockey since starting the OHL season 2-13. Along the way, the 6-foot-3, 192-pound Knott has emerged as a reliable left wing who offers a mature understanding of defensive play with some modest scoring touch.
"It was very stressful at the start," says Knott, who is NHL Central Scouting's No. 54-ranked North American skater. "A lot of hype coming into the year, with the new rink [the Meridian Centre in St. Catharines]. But I think we have the ball rolling now and are playing good hockey."
Knott, who has 19 goals and 33 points over 54 games in Niagara, began to stand out last season when he cracked Canada's spring under-18 team as an underaged player. His emergence gave the IceDogs a fallback when they included their first-rounder from 2013, Hayden McCool, in the package offered to the Windsor Spitfires to acquire Ho-Sang, one of the OHL's most creative players.
Having been blessed with good size, Knott admits that developing and using his strength more effectively is a work in progress. That, obviously, kicks in toward the tail end of a player's second junior season or his third.
"Biggest thing I have to work on is definitely my consistency," says the Holland Landing, Ont., native, who turned 18 in mid-January. "I have to bring it every day, every night. It's got to get better."
"Another thing is probably my battling in the corners," adds Knott, who played in his adds. "Against older guys, you can't just win puck battles with your stick. I got to do better at that."
1. How do you see yourself as a player?
"I think I can do pretty much all of it. Play penalty kill, power play, score goals, shut down other teams' top stars when needed."
2. Your desired 'outside of hockey' career is police officer; what spawned that?
"I have a lot of family who do that. Both sides, police and firefighting. You hear a lot of stories about how they're in situations where they put their life on the line. it just gives you a lot of respect for what they do."
3. Who's your role model in the NHL?
"I really look up to [the New Jersey Devils'] Adam Henrique. He plays a good two-way game."
4. Aside from your family (parents Jocelyn and Stewart), who has had the largest influence on your success?
"My minor midget coach, Tom Milne [with the York-Simcoe Express]. He just told me to look after my D zone, telling me 'you can make a living from that.' Look after your own zone and the offensive chances will come."
5. If you were not playing hockey, what sport would you play?
"I played a lot of baseball growing up and my dad loves it. I played in the outfield; got a pretty good arm."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.