Knights' stars hoping to crack NHL rosters

Header image for Interrobang article CREDIT: ANDREW STEPHENSON FROM SHAKE MEDIA
Matthew Tkachuk, is one of the many Knights who may be lacing up for a season in the NHL.

After winning their second Memorial Cup Championship and fourth OHL title in team history last season, the London Knights could be poised for another championship run. Or, they could be an entirely new team.

Many of the veterans who led London to their overtime win over Rouyn-Noranda last spring are now fighting to crack NHL rosters.

Although the team boasts promising rookies and great goaltending, it’s realistic to expect that star forwards Mitch Marner, Matthew Tkachuk and Christian Dvorak may never play another major-junior game.

The three led the OHL playoffs in scoring last season, boasting 119 points in 54 games of action. Put simply, they dominated.

Now that all have been drafted, it’s a matter of when, not if, they will become NHL regulars.

Mitch Marner was selected fourth overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Two of the players ahead of him are now playing in the pros themselves: Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel. The other is Dylan Strome, who is in the same position as Marner, only he’s fighting for a spot in Arizona.

With a rebuilding Leafs roster and admiration from head coach Mike Babcock, there could be a spot for the Knights’ best player come October. Marner is currently attending training camp in Toronto and will know his fate in the following weeks. After leading the OHL in playoff scoring with an astounding 44 points in 18 games, including a plus minus of 30, it would be shocking to many if he dons a Knights jersey this season.

Knights’ Matthew Tkachuk is in virtually the same boat. After being selected sixth by the Calgary Flames in the 2016 Draft just a few short months ago, he’ll be trying to play his way onto the Flames’ roster that is being built around young talent; just look at Johnny Gaudreau or Sean Monahan.

After a strong showing at the World Juniors in January, with 11 points in seven games, the 18-yearold is another player who could be making his home in the NHL next season.

The third member of the line and captain of the Knights, Christian Dvorak cannot be overlooked either. He was a second round selection of the Arizona Coyotes in 2014, a team that is also building their franchise around young talent. Max Domi was a teammate of Dvorak’s two years ago; he’s now a regular in Arizona. Dvorak enters training camp having scored more points in his final major-junior season than any Coyotes prospect since 1996; it’s safe to say he’s got a shot.

And if it weren’t enough that the Knights’ top three players could be leaving the team, another 13 skaters will be attending training camps in the following weeks, including star defenseman Olli Juolevi in Vancouver.

Juolevi was part of the Finnish team that won the World Juniors for the second time in three years in January. Also on that team were Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi, who just represented Finland in the World Cup of Hockey.

Other important players from last season who could be moving up are Max Jones in Anaheim, Chris Martenet in Dallas, Cliff Pu in Buffalo and Brandon Crawley in Pittsburgh.

After such a successful season, it’s no surprise that countless skaters on the London Knights roster have played themselves into a position to chase their dreams and play in the NHL.

But if a few of them make the big leagues, it will come down to the young players to keep the legacy of winning in London alive.

Without the likes of Marner, Dvorak, Tkachuk, Juolevi, among others, the Knights are still a playoff team. With them, anything less than another Memorial Cup would be a bust.