Brampton - It’s a long way from high school hockey in North Bay, Ont., to a four-year career in the Ontario Hockey League, but that was the route taken by defenceman Ken Peroff of the Brampton Battalion.
Chosen in the seventh round of the 2005 OHL Priority Selection from West Ferris High School, Peroff enlisted with the Battalion for the 2006-07 season. He went on to play 240 games over four seasons, seventh on the club’s all-time list, and 39 more in the playoffs.
“When I got chosen I couldn’t believe it,” said Peroff, whose OHL career came to an end April 7 when the Troops lost a fourth straight game to the Barrie Colts in an Eastern Conference semifinal series.
“I didn’t think OHL teams ever picked high school players. I didn’t expect to be here for four seasons. I knew I wanted to play hockey and I worked as hard as I could. I’m happy where my career has taken me.”
Fellow overage blueliner Brad Albert, whose Battalion career also ended against the Colts, took a more conventional route to the OHL. A native of Ottawa, Albert was a fourth-round pick in 2005 from the Nepean Raiders minor midgets. He played 226 regular-season games and another 41 in the playoffs, tied with Cody Hodgson for the most in club history.
“It went by really fast,” said Albert. “I cherish every moment of it, and I won’t forget my time here. There are a lot of moments and people I will never forget. I don’t regret deciding to come here.”
Peroff also said his time in the OHL had flown by.
“I remember my first day here, meeting all the older guys, and at the end of that season they were telling me how the time had gone. Now I know what they mean.”
Peroff and Albert were key members of the 2008-09 defence corps that helped the Battalion advance to the OHL Championship Series against the Windsor Spitfires. They brought that experience to this season’s team, which used a strong defence to allow the fewest goals in club history and finished fifth in the conference despite scoring a league-low 167 goals.
“A lot of us matured as players and people last season, and I think that really helped us with a young group this season,” said Albert. “We had a lot of character on this team and we really wanted to prove people wrong.”
Peroff said the Troops’ conference title last year was the pinnacle of his career.
“To be one of the final two teams still playing in the league is something you’ll always remember.”
Peroff said the team this season reminded him of his rookie campaign, when a young Battalion squad battled valiantly in a four-game loss to Barrie in a conference quarterfinal.
“We were young with a good nucleus then. This season’s team is like that too. There’s a lot of good young talent here. This group can do something special down the road.
“When I got here, Kyle Sonnenburg, Phil Oreskovic and John de Gray were guys I looked up to. They did the little things to help my confidence and talked to me. That’s what I tried to do for the guys here this season.”
Peroff recorded 15 goals and 60 assists for 75 points in his career, adding three goals and 11 assists for 14 points in the playoffs, but he became renowned for his ability to play in his own end and a willingness to sacrifice his body to block shots.
“If you’re not a guy who’s going to put up a ton of points, you have to do the little things that make you a good player, like blocking shots.”
Peroff, still weighing options for his career beyond the Battalion, was named the conference’s most underrated player in the OHL Coaches Poll this season.
“It was a really nice compliment, because it’s voted on by the coaches I’ve played against for so many years. It’s great to know they have that kind of respect for me. I really appreciated that.”
Albert contributed seven goals and 38 assists for 45 points in his career, with one goal and 10 assists for 11 playoff points.
“I’m going to go to university and play hockey. I don’t know where yet. I’ll have to sit down and weigh the pros and cons, but I am planning on making a decision shortly.”