London Knights season preview
A lot of questions face the London Knights as they begin the 2000-2001 season. One, where are their European imports? They are currently missing in action in Europe. It is still unknown if they will be coming over to play or not. Two, will Joel Scherban and Chris Kelly return from pro camps to play as over agers. Three, will the kids be able to respond to the extra ice time.The Knights missed the playoffs last year, and to make matters worse, they chose not to deal any veterans at the deadline, as they hoped to make a last dash effort to make the playoffs and then make some noise. They fell short of the mark, and so now a lot of young kids are thrust into roles which time will tell if they are able to fill.In goal, Aaron Molnar, a 19 year old Colorado draft pick is the number one man. He hasn’t played a lot in the OHL, but that will change this year. He will see the lions share of the work, and will see a lot of rubber. In the home opener he made over 40 saves in a 4-3 win over the Windsor Spitfires. He showed some nice lateral movement in making key saves on the Spitfires big line of Mather, Ott, and Kennedy. He made a lot of nice saves in scrambles, staying low and covering the holes until the Defence could move the puck out. The Knights will need a lot of nights like this from Molnar if they are going to compete.
On the point, Dan Jancevski will be the anchor. The 19 year old Dallas Star pick will see 30 minutes of ice every night, play on the power play, short handed, and in all key situations. He is a tough, good defensive defenceman. The Stars and Knights hope that he follows the pattern of John Erskine who really blossomed in the last year with the Knights and developed the offensive skills that had been missing. Dan is a tough customer, but will have to stay out of the box, as the team needs him on the ice. Whether his offence pick up with the extra ice time is another key factor in the performance of the Knights.Bobby Turner enters his third year with the Knights. The former first rounder has been a disappointment so far, but maybe under the coaching of new coach Lindsay Hofford he will blossom. He made some nice shot blocks in the opener. He is a tough cookie, but has a reputation for taking dumb penalties. He will likely be in the Knights top 4, and his development will be interesting to watch.
John Eminger and Ian Turner are 19 year olds who will see a lot of ice time with the Knights as well.Up front, the Knights have no 19 year olds, and DJ Maracle is the only current overager, and he went down with an injury in the home opener. That gave the kids even more ice time.
Lou Dickenson will be the key up front. He was drafted by Edmonton last June and came over from the Ice Dogs in a summer trade. He has NHL speed, but he has been knocked for being soft, and a defensive liability. He’ll probably never have the football mentality of his father who played in the CFL for a couple of seasons, but he showed great hustle last night. He should relish in the role of star center, and is a fan favorite already. He scored 2 power play goals and his second was a great wrist shot. With two seasons left in the OHL, he has lots of time to prove critics wrong and to showcase his skills, which are abundant.Rick Nash, a lanky winger who the Knights picked in the first round, really impressed. He played on the first line, power play, and was even used down two men. He showed a lot of offensive potential and will be fun to watch over the years. With his reach, he will be making defenceman dizzy with his stickhandling.Two 17-year-old sophomores will be counted on to contribute more. Matthew Albiani and Aaron Lobb sat on the bench most of last year as coach Gary Agnew went with veterans. They will see more ice this month than they saw all of last year and will have lots of chances to show why they were high picks.This is a team that is building for the next couple of seasons, but may surprise if they get some overage help and if their Europeans come over and contribute. They will have lots of growing pains, but have a number of talented kids who will be good OHLers and a few should get drafted as well.