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By Chris Marchand
Dryden’s Kevin Raine is heading to the biggest show in Canadian junior hockey, The Memorial Cup.
The 19 year-old local defenceman helped his London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League clinch their league championship in four games to one over the Niagara IceDogs, this past Friday.
The Knights now advance to the final showdown between the top Canadian Hockey League (CHL) teams from coast to coast. Included are the Western Hockey League’s Edmonton Oil Kings, reigning champs the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, host team the Shawinigan Cataractes and the OHL’s London Knights.
Raine’s Knights play their opening game against Saint John, Saturday, May 19. Catch the game on TSN at 6 p.m. Central. The Knights take on the host team Shawinigan, on Sunday, also at 6 p.m. Central on TSN. On Tuesday, May 22 they meet Edmonton.
A long journey
The transition to major junior hockey can be a tough one for young defensemen who often struggle to establish a physical presence in the Canadian Hockey League, a proving ground for the National Hockey League. Coming from a smaller hockey system in the north, Raine says he’s no exception in that regard.
“It was slow and steady,” said Raine. “It didn’t happen immediately for me — like a Max Domi or some of the 16 year-olds who are able come into the league right away. I definitely had to go through a development process and I believe I am still going through that process.”
In 2010, Raine played just 10 games with the Knights, spending the bulk of the season with Junior ‘B’ clubs the Lambton Shores Predators and St. Thomas Stars.
Raine says he considers this past season with 49 regular season and 13 playoff games in the OHL to be his rookie season.
Raine has been holding his own among some of the top defensive prospects in the game, like Jarred Tinordi, Olli Maatta, Scott Harrington. While he can often find himself a healthy scratch, he says he’s learned to put it in perspective.
“I’ve found my own ways to cope with that and understand it,” said Raine. “I kind of realize that we have a really good team here. I try to not take it personally whenever I’m not in the lineup because our top-four D (defensemen) consist of three guys that went to the World Junior Championships this year.”
Raine’s playoff performance of recent weeks has earned him more ice-time than usual. He attributes that to sticking to the fundamentals of his game.
“When I first got here I was most recognized for my defensive ability and my physical play,” said Raine. “I do what got me here — I’m going to keep playing that style. Maybe down the road I’ll develop more offensive skills and contribute more that way. Now, especially when I’m trying to get into the lineup, I’m going to play my game in a simple, solid and safe way.”