London News & Search
Blink, and you start to wonder where the summer went.
That’s the same uneasiness the London Knights, who open training camp Tuesday, want to make their OHL opponents feel this fall.
“The one thing about this team that pops to mind is speed,” London GM Rob Simpson said. “A lot of these guys (Max Jones, Cliff Pu, Jesper Bratt, Alex Formenton and Robert Thomas) are fast. We’ll try to push the pace and make teams catch up.”
The Knights don’t know if the 19-year-old Jones will return for a third season. That’s up to him and the Anaheim Ducks to decide at the NHL level.
But the power forward has recovered from blocking a shot for the United States earlier this month at the World Junior Summer Showcase in Plymouth, Mich. He is expected to be on the ice at Budweiser Gardens.
Defencemen Brandon Crawley (Rangers) and Olli Juolevi (Canucks), however, will not take part this time around. New York wants to keep Crawley training while getting ready for camp. Juolevi will be given every possible opportunity to make the Vancouver roster.
“It’s a good opportunity for guys like Jacob Golden, Riley Coome, Ryan Bangs and Andrew Perrott,” Simpson said. “Jacob was picked by the Minnesota Wild and now he’s got to take that potential they see in him — and we did — and execute it in games. He’s had a good summer. He’s grown a little bit taller and put on some weight.
“Without Crawley and Juolevi here, there are minutes for the younger guys who are hungry for ice time to grab.”
Canadiens prospect Victor Mete, who will be in the captaincy conversation leading into the season, is the undisputed anchor of the London blue-line. But he’ll need some help, especially from NHL draft-eligible Evan Bouchard and Leafs pick Nicolas Mattinen.
The Knights anticipate eight goaltenders in camp, but they expect to start the 2017-18 campaign with Tyler Johnson and Jordan Kooy vying for playing time.
The net pairing combined for 37 games last season. Tyler Parsons, because of injury and world junior duty, appeared in only 34 outings before his wonderful playoff run.
“Hopefully, that experience helps them for this year,” Simpson said. “Tyler (Johnson) and Jordan had a good summer of training. We had them in for some periodic fitness training and they showed progress in each segment. Last year, both were put in position to be a starter. Tyler won some games for us (12) and, as a 16-year-old, Jordan posting the numbers he did (8-2 with a .927 save percentage) was pretty impressive.
“It’ll be a big year for both of them and big things are expected.”
The Knights expect to boast another large training camp. There will be four full teams and approximately 82 players for the first few days of scrimmages.
“We always seem to have success with a camp that size,” Simpson said. “You have one or two guys who come in and surprise you.”
London has already signed its top three picks from the most recent OHL draft — Perrott, Lucas Rowe and Dalton DuHart. They have five on board from their 2016 selections, led by Kooy, Liam Foudy and second-rounder Billy Moskal, who got in 13 games last year while playing for the St. Marys Lincolns.
“Billy’s been back home in Sudbury skating with the pros there, and I’ve had very good reports on him,” Simpson said. “Things look really good for him after his season last year. The last guy we had win rookie of the year in Junior B was (OHL sniper) Seth Griffith.”
Sam Miletic, London’s reigning leading goal scorer, and hard-hitting Adrian Carbonara are early favourites to grab overage spots. The Knights aren’t bringing in a large number of 20-year-olds this time to compete for those three positions.
“We think our top six forwards are going to be very good,” Simpson said, “and then, we’ll see who steps up and progresses among the younger players.”
They should have their answers in a hurry.
And the way they’re being built for speed, the Knights wouldn’t have it any other way.
KNIGHTS CAMP SCHEDULE
What: 2017-18 London Knights training camp
Open to public: Enter Budweiser Gardens through Gate 4.
Tuesday: Team Black vs. White, 8 a.m.; Team Gold vs. Green, 9:40 a.m.; White vs. Gold, 1 p.m.; Black vs. Green, 3 p.m.
Aug. 30: White vs. Green, 8 a.m.; Black vs. Gold, 9:40 a.m.; White vs. Gold, 1 p.m.; Black vs. Green, 3 p.m.
Aug. 31: Green vs. Gold.
London News & Search