February 27, 2012
Andreas Athanasiou has acquired a couple of high-profile tutors as he preps for his final exams — the playoffs and the NHL draft.
The London Knights left wing is one of the fleetest prospects in the class of 2012 and has skill to complement his speed. However, the Woodbridge, Ont., native knows he still needs to sharpen his on-ice vision in order for his production to match his potential. That leads into why the Knights recently put the speedster with the two veterans they added for a playoff run, Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Greg McKegg and Nashville Predators first-rounder Austin Watson. Athanasiou is hoping he can tap into the two 19-year-olds' experience during the stretch run.
"It's a good line with the size of Watts [Watson] and the skill of Kegger [McKegg] and I can use my speed to open some ice for them," says Athanasiou, who has 19 goals and 33 points in 55 games on a deep and balanced London team. "They have a lot of experience in this league, they give me a lot of tips, a lot of the ins and outs, when to shoot, when to pass.
"I think I've come a long way and I've learned a lot this year and I just have to keep pushing forward."
The fact the Knights are going with Athanasiou on their top unit attests to his high upside. With six 20-goal scorers, coach Mark Hunter and company have plenty of arrows in their quiver, including 41-goal scorer Seth Griffith and Boston Bruins prospect Jared Knight. Yet they're eager to see how Athanasiou, who projects to be a first or second-round pick after being ranked 24th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting last month, responds by being on the big line.
"Andreas is a player with elite speed and he really adds another element to the rush with his ability to carry the puck," says Knights assistant coach and assistant GM Misha Donskov. "You got two experienced guys there who can finish and have good hockey sense. It's a nice complement for him ... he's got to watch how these guys play, how these guys prepare and the success they've had in our league as part of the process."
"Just shoot the puck more. I tend to make a pass here and there, but I have to shoot more."
2. Whom in the NHL do you watch and say, "I see things he does that I need to start doing" or "I need to play more like him?"
"I think a Marian Gaborik type of player with his speed and his size. He's definitely a player I watch with how he uses his speed to make plays for his teammates."
3. What do you consider your proudest hockey achievement?
"Coming to the OHL as a fourth-rounder and being able to make the Ontario under-17 team last season and be named to the tournament all-star team. Also, being named to the [Team Canada] under-18 team and getting to be the No. 1 centre there [at last summer's Memorial of Ivan Hlinka tournament. Getting to play for Coach [Steve] Spott [of the rival Kitchener Rangers] was one of the greatest honours I've had so far and I'm really looking forward to the draft."
4. Outside of family, who has had the most impact on you in hockey?
"There's two people who've had a big impact on me. The first is one of my buddies who passed away, Chase McEachern, who I played with a while ago. He was my winger. I was there at the hospital for a couple days before he passed away [in 2006 from a heart problem]. I pass by that hospital every day in London.
"Another is one of my coaches who passed away, Stu Davison. He played for the Cornwall Royals and taught me a lot of stuff. He taught me about staying with the play. He was one of my best coaches because he was real fast. He was one of the guys who could actually stay with me."
5. London is one of the most popular picks when BTN asks OHLers to name their favourite road rink, so one has to pose that question to a Knights player. Where's your favourite place to play other than the John Labatt Centre?
"I'm going to say Owen Sound [Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre] because of my four-goal game there [on Dec. 3]. It's just a lucky arena. I set a London Knights record there with two goals in six seconds. There's just something about that arena. I know a lot of players don't like it, but I like it."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet (photo: OHL Images).