Knights' Night: Is the Knights' top line gone for good

Header image for Interrobang article CREDIT: ANDREW STEPHENSON OF SHAKE MEDIA
Without top scorers from last season Mitch Marner, Matthew Tkachuk and Christian Dvorak, the Knights are left depending on Cliff Pu and Max Jones for points, but is this enough?

It didn't even take Mitchell Marner two full games to score his first NHL goal. Christian Dvorak had a point less than ten minutes into his first.

These kids are ready to play in the big league.

The way the Toronto Maple Leafs roster looks, it would be a shock if Marner played another junior game. Christian Dvorak is too old to suit up in the OHL, and if he weren't to impress in Arizona, he would continue his season in Tucson, playing for the newly relocated Roadrunners.

The only player that could realistically return to the London Knights is Matthew Tkachuk. He is scoreless through his first three NHL games, has a plus minus below zero, and is only averaging a little over 12 minutes a game. But most importantly, he's still only 18.

As of right now, he's the youngest active player in the NHL. That's not to say he isn't good enough to play for Calgary. It just means he still has a lot of growing up to do.

If I had to make a prediction today,I'd say none of the line that scored 344 points in 173 regular season games in the 2015—2016 season are coming back.

So, what does that mean for the Knights?

As of the time of print, London is 4-2-2, good enough for seventh place in the Western Conference. It's too early in the season to say that's concerning for the Knights, but what is concerning is their offence.

The Knights have scored 27 goals in eight games. In many leagues, over three goals per game isn't a bad stat. In the OHL, where goals aren't necessarily hard to come by; it's manageable, but it isn't great.

Only four teams have scored less than the Knights so far, and it begs the question: where is the scoring without Marner, Tkachuk and Dvorak?

Last season, only two other Knights' players were in the top 50 of league scoring. One of them, Aaron Berisha, is now playing in the East Coast Hockey League for the Missouri Mavericks.

The other, Anaheim draftee Max Jones, is doing his part.

Playing on the first line with Buffalo third rounder Cliff Pu, Jones has been keeping the culture of scoring in London alive.

Since his return from California, Jones has been scoring at a twopoint per game pace. He's been London's best player by a long-shot.

Not to be overlooked is Pu, who has tallied 10 points in six games, including four goals.

Against Windsor on Oct. 14, the two were excellent, combining for five points in a 4-0 win.

Over-ager J.J. Piccinich has also stood out for the Knights, scoring five points in his six games.

But besides that, the forward core is primarily unproven players. It's only a matter of time before the young guys begin adjusting to one of the most competitive junior leagues in the world, but two good scorers won't cut it for the Knights.

Montreal pick Victor Mete and Vancouver selection Olli Juolevi are bright spots on the back end. Mete is smooth skating at both ends of the ice; he's a stalwart defensively, and can score as well. He's picked up six points so far.

Juolevi hasn't quite hit his stride this season, but he's still one of the top defenders in the OHL, and could probably be playing in the NHL today.

The Knights have had flashes of brilliance so far, like in their dominance of a high-powered Windsor Spitfire team Oct. 14. They've also had flashes of the opposite, losing 7-1 to the Erie Otters Oct. 15.

They still have strong goaltending, and the defense is excellent, but the London Knights can't rely on Jones and Pu to score all of the goals. They need consistency to be successful.

If Marner, Tkachuk and Dvorak aren't consistent in the NHL, it's only a matter of time before they're sent down.

If the current Knights roster isn't consistent, it could be a long season.