Was recently able to get London Knights forward Jared Knight to sit down and answer some of my questions. In case you didn't know, earlier this season Jared struggled with health concerns and was eventually diagnosed with diabetes.
Here is the link to the article I've written for School Your Pool. Be sure to read the article before the below Q & A.
"Jared Knight Battles Through Adversity"
Here's the transcript of our Q & A session.
Otten - Back in 2007-08, you played on a ridiculously strong Detroit Compuware AAA team. The team has since produced some pretty quality OHL players (and fellow prospects for the 2010 draft), like Austin Watson, Austin Levi, and Alex Aleardi. Do you still keep in touch with those guys? Also, just how good was that team?
Knight - I am in contact with Austin Watson regularly and communicate with Alex and Austin Levi a couple of times a month. All three are great guys with great hockey skills. They were great team mates. The Compuware team was very good but in states we ran into a hot goalie that happened to be Michael Houser who played for Little Caesar's at the time. Compuware won the league and Little Caesar's won Nationals that year. Overall it was a very good team.
Otten - As an American born player, I feel like I should ask you what made you decide to go to the Ontario Hockey League and play for London, rather than go the NCAA route.
Knight - The CHL is the greatest development league in the world. The University of Michigan and USNDP are very good options, but I wanted to play more games and play in a situation more consistent with the pro levels. Coach Dale Hunter believed I could make an impact on the team and he made it easy to go to London.
Otten - Talk about your rookie OHL season last year. What were some of the biggest adjustments for you entering the league? How would you grade yourself on the season?
Knight - The Speed of the game and the size of the players is the biggest difference. You have to keep your head up at all times on the ice. I would grade my season as average. The team did well going into the third round of the playoffs losing to Windsor. The experience was good and being able to play with guys playing in the NHL like Carlson, Tavares,and Del Zotto, last year was great. I learned a lot from all of them.
Otten - How did you prepare for this coming season, knowing that you'd probably have a larger offensive role with the Knights?
Knight - I trained hard this summer, running, biking and lifting weights six days a week. I also was able to get on the ice three to four times a week.
Otten - The Knights have had a fairly strong season thus far, yet a lot of people seem to be writing them off as serious playoff contenders. Why do you think that is?
Knight - London did trade several good players to contending teams. This may hurt a little but I think its to early to tell how far we will go. We are the under dogs and may surprise some teams.London works hard and has been playing as a team. We have one of the best coaching and training staff in the league.
Otten - Losing Phil McRae and Zac Rinaldo hurts but new addition Chris DeSousa and you seem to have had some instant chemistry thus far. I had the pleasure of watching Chris a lot in Niagara. He left that organization on somewhat bad terms and as a result I think people have been undervaluing the caliber of player he is. What does his addition mean to the team?
Knight - Chris knows the game well and keeps his head up. Hes a gritty player that's is a good passer and knows what to do with the puck. We haven't been put together much this year after Chris's first game but when we have been together, we have connected well.
Otten - Were you at all disappointed by the fact that you weren't ranked inside the Top 100 of NHL Central Scouting's Midterm List for 2010? Quite frankly I think they made a big mistake by having you so low.
Knight - When the list first come out on the top 25 OHL players, I was disappointed that I didn't make the list. I know that I didn't have a good start and that had a lot to do with the ranking's. I know I have to keep playing my game and control what I can. The season is long and I can and will improve. About the Midterm ranking's, CSS has their opinion and I just need to play better to change their opinion of me. I will continue to play with energy and put up the best numbers I'm capable of.
Otten - Do you think your diabetes diagnosis played a role in that ranking?
Knight - Since I have been taking insulin, I have felt much better. Since feeling better, I have played better and put better numbers. I think that my ranking's will rise. Diabetes has been a set back but since being treated will no longer be an excuse.
Otten - If you don't mind, I'd love to ask you about your illness (diabetes). Could you take me through your struggles with it? For example when did you start feeling ill and how much did it affect your play?
Knight - During the end of Summer, I started feeling tired all the time, I had trouble sleeping and I was waking up five to six times a night to go to the bathroom. At the start of the season, my legs were always heavy and felt like they were on fire. I lost about 20 pounds and had no energy. I remember on a bus ride from the Oshawa game, I kept going to the bathroom and my team mate Leigh Salters noticed this. Leigh is a diabetic as suggested that I test my blood with his tester. The results were high and Leigh told me to get to the doctor immediately as this is dangerous to my health. The next day my trainer Andy took me to the doctor where I was diagnosed. The team, coaches, trainers and Leigh have been great support and have helped me learn to cope with this disease.
Otten - Your offensive production has increased considerably over the course of the last few months. How much of that can be attributed to getting treatment for your diabetes? How is the adjustment going thus far?
Knight - Since taking insulin, my game has gotten back on track and my stats have been much better. I know that it effected my play and am still learning how to regulate my blood. I test my blood between periods and have made adjustments with shots between the periods. This has helped and I'm still learning how to properly regulate this.
Otten - A lot of professional athletes have been able to play the sport they love for a living despite having diabetes; in particular pro hockey players. Guys like Bobby Clarke, Nick Boynton, and B.J. Crombeen. Have you talked to anybody else that's had to deal with the same things you
have in order to get advice or support?
Knight - Leigh Salters has been a great help. Leigh has played several years with diabetes and he has learned to deal with it. I also now live with Scott and Gail Tooke. They have a 11 year old son Noah who has diabetes. Noah plays hockey at a high level for his age and he has helped me also. The Tookes have been outstanding to live with and they really understand how to deal with diabetes while playing hockey.
Otten - For those that haven't had the opportunity to see you play, how would you describe your game?
Knight - I think I play a two way game and take pride in playing the defensive zone. I do like to score and like crashing the net. I have scored a lot of goals going to the net hard.
Otten - What are the things you feel you need to work on or improve the most going forward?
Knight - Like most players, I need to be consistent and bring it every night. I just need to keep working out to get stronger. I love lifting weights and will continue to do this. I went from 170 pounds to 197 pounds in the last two months since I have been in treatment. I feel much better. My legs are back to normal and my energy level is increasing.
Otten - Is there an NHL player you idolized growing up, or a current player you try to pattern your game after?
Knight - I like the way Mike Richards plays as a forward and Mike Green as a Defensemen.
Otten - As a Michigan native, is it safe to assume you grew up a Detroit Red Wings fan? If so, what would it be like to have your name called by them in June?
Knight - I am a Wings fan and have grown to like the leafs now that I have lived in London for the past 2 seasons. As far as who do I want to draft me, I will say that any of the 30 teams would be fine. I don't think there's a team that I would be disappointed to be drafted by.
Otten - Who's the toughest defender to play against in the Ontario Hockey League?
Knight - There isn't one defender that I would say stands out. Every team has top defenders and playing on a line with Naz, I seem to be playing against the teams top d on most nights. The OHL has good players on all the teams. The competition is the best.
Otten - I have to assume you watched the thrilling gold medal game of the World Junior's between Canada and the U.S. Easily one of the best finishes ever at that tournament (even if my guys were on the wrong end of the decision!). Have Michael Houser and you been rubbing it in
the faces of the Canadian guys on the Knights?
Knight - I don't really rub in the World Jrs to my Canadian Team mates. I know that what comes around goes around.
Otten - Last question. You?ve got to choose one. Stanley Cup, Memorial Cup, or Gold Medal for Team U.S.A.?
Knight - Stanley Cup, Its the hardest trophy to win and that's what I will have my sites set on in the future if things go right for me.
Once again, thanks to Jared and his father for making this happen and best of luck to Jared and London throughout the rest of the season.