Monday, March 19, 2012

2012 Draft Blog: Andreas Athanasiou

The Pipeline Show has been fortunate over the last several seasons to bring you exclusive blog entries written by a number of players during their NHL draft season. The players who have relayed their experiences for our audience during the 2011-12 season thus far have included Michael Matheson, Cody Ceci, Ryan Murray, Troy Bourke and Brendan Gaunce.

Today we are pleased to welcome aboard another member of the Class of 2012. He is a second year forward in the OHL and plays for the powerful London Knights. The Ontario native surpassed the 20-goal mark during the regular season and is looking ahead to the playoffs which begin on Friday as he and the Knights host the Windsor Spitfires.

Here now is the first contribution to the blog written by Andreas Athanasiou...

My name is Andreas Athanasiou, better known as “double A,” and I wear number 86 for the Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights. After being drafted in the 4th round during the 2010 draft, I am now finishing my second year with the Knights.

I am one of four siblings. My oldest sibling and only sister, Alisha, is in school at the University of Ottawa. My older brother Dimitri, participates in extreme sports and is a Red Bull Crashed Ice athlete, while my little brother, Nicholas, is in Grade 7 and enjoys playing recreational sports. My parents, Stan and Nadira, have been a positive influence in my life. They have offered much help throughout my hockey career, attending the majority of my games. It is nice to see them every weekend and at the end of most games. I was born in London, Ontario and live here with my godparents throughout the season. During off-season I live with my family in Woodbridge, Ontario.

Coming into the OHL as a fourth rounder put me into a little bit of an underdog position. My goal was to make Team Ontario’s Under 17 Team. I knew that if I wanted to do that, I would have to turn some heads with whatever opportunity I was given. As a 16-year-old rookie on a team with many skilled players my chances as a rookie were limited, but I was determined to earn my place. After a lot of hard work and dedication I made Team Ontario and we went on to win Gold in the tournament. While playing for team Ontario I earned a spot on the tournament’s All Star Team.

Back in London, a lot of our team was traded which resulted in the majority of my teammates now being younger players. We were in a building stage, but were still focused on making the playoffs. Being a part of one of the youngest OHL teams last year was a great experience and helped me to mature a great deal. We eventually came together as group, but unfortunately only made it to face the tough first round against the soon to be OHL champions, Owen Sound Attack. As a 16 year old, I learned a lot of things from playing my first year and it was a great experience. To make it even better, I was chosen for the second OHL rookie All Star team and this is another honour for which I am grateful.

I knew that with the end of the season around the corner, and the invites to the Under 18 Ivan Hlinka Tournament coming up, I would have to be in the best shape of my life. For this tournament I knew I wouldn’t just be competing with the top players in the province, but with the top players in all of Canada. This was a true international tournament and I wanted to be a part of it. I worked really hard with my trainer Ray Leblanc at S.P.E.E.D. Strength and Conditioning. This allowed me to be in peak shape to perform at my best during the Under 18 tryouts.

I had a good showing at the selection camp and led in points. Coach Steve Spott gave me the great honour of being the number one center. With this opportunity I knew I needed to make the most I could out of it, and tried to play to the best of my ability. I think participating in this tournament and having the chance to represent my country is the highlight of my hockey career thus far. I was surrounded by a great group of guys and exceptional coaching staff.

Coach Spott of the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL is one of the best coaches I’ve ever had. He taught me a lot and brought a gold medal team together in only a few short weeks.

A couple days after returning from the Ivan Hlinka, I was given the opportunity to participate in the NHL’s Research and Development camp. This was an amazing experience, even though I was still feeling the jet lag from Slovakia. At this camp I won the shootout competition and had the most creative a goal.

After the NHL R&D camp it was back to the Knights for main camp and the start of the season. Coming into the season, we didn’t realize the type of firepower we had. Still being a young team and having a lot of players return from the previous year we were one year older and a whole lot better. Our team came together really quickly and we started winning a majority of our games. It was a few weeks later when we realized we had a chance to win it all. When I started to realize our potential, I wanted to give my all, and help the team reach our full potential, while producing as much as I could for the team.

We became the number 1 ranked team in the CHL for many consecutive weeks and I think being a part of that was, and is, what every 2012 draft eligible player wanted. The Knights is a team comprised of good players in every position and to be on a winning team many of us have had to make sacrifices. I see about 10-12 minutes a game and do the best I can to make those minutes count as much as possible.

The Christmas break came and I spent my break Training with Ray Leblanc every day. I had my eyes set on the Top Prospects Game and I was hoping I did enough to be selected. When I got the invite, I was very excited, and looked forward to being a part of a game with the top 2012 NHL prospects in the CHL. Being in Kelowna, and participating in this game was amazing and is an experience I will never forget. I participated in all the skills competition and Next testing, where I scored the highest in the fitness testing.

My team finished the rest of the season strong and clinched the number 1 spot in the OHL. Our goal is to go the distance and win the Memorial Cup. We have an overall exceptional group of players and I want to be a part of a Memorial Cup team more than anything. The Memorial Cup is the one thing I am looking forward to most and that’s where my main focus is right now.

I think that is all I have for now, but I will be back in 6 weeks and hopefully I will be able to let you know that my team and I are one step closer to the Memorial Cup this May. Thank you for reading.

Andreas Athanasiou is a forward listed at 6'1 and 174 lbs. and is described as a creative, offensive minded player. He represented Canada at the Ivan Hlinka tournament in August of 2011 and recorded 3 goals and 4 points in 5 games. He ended the OHL's regular season with 22 goals and 37 points in 63 games. He is currently ranked 24th in North America by NHL Central Scouting (Mid-term) and 31st overall by International Scouting in March.

(Photos: Aaron Bell / OHL Images)

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