London Knights-Drafted and Soon to be Drafted Review
The London Knights currently have 5 players on their roster who have been NHL drafted, but one is currently back in Europe, deciding on his future in North America. Here is a look at these players as well as a few who will be drafted in the future.
Calle Aslund, an eighteen year old defenceman was drafted by Buffalo. He has played one game and then returned home to Sweden. He did not look out of place in that game, has good size and skating abilities, plays his man well and appeared to have some offensive upside. His return would greatly benefit the Knights, allowing them to move a defenceman for help up front.
Lubos Velebny is a nineteen year old defenceman who was drafted by Toronto. He is already among the Knights top 4 on defence and plays in all situations. He is a smooth skater, moves the puck well, has a hard shot, and has good size. In his own end, sometimes he tries to be a bit too fancy, preferring to make a deke or try a difficult pass rather than chipping out the puck. I don’t consider this too be a fault, but it will be something he will have to work on as he moves onto pro. He is already a vital cog on what is shaping up to be a lethal Knights power play. I would like to see him getting more shots through that are tippable, as he sometimes gets his shots up or has them blocked.
The Knights apparently have just signed his transfer papers with Slovakia, so he will be able to stay the entire year over here. This will probably mean the Knights will be able to trade or release one of their overage defenceman, and get some much needed help up front. Look for him to have a strong offensive year, will likely be invited to play for Slovakia at the World Juniors, and will probably join a growing number of OHL trained defence on the Leafs farm team in St. John’s next season.
Sean McMorrow is a nineteen year old winger who was drafted by Buffalo. He has played on several teams already in the OHL, and has yet to score a goal. He has spent most of his career on defence, actually he has spent most of his career on the bench or in the penalty box. The move to RW will help his career, as he was too much of a defensive liability on the point. On the wing he will be able to get more involved physically and when the gloves get dropped there aren’t many, if any, tougher in the OHL. He will have to really work on his skating and basic skills, but the good news is, that Buffalo has used an unskilled winger for years in the person of Rob Ray. His tenure as policeman for the Sabres is coming to an end, and McMorrow may get a shot at his job after some apprenticeship in the minors.
There is not a doubt that he has the fighting skills to get to the show, now he has to work on the others.
Danny Bois is an eighteen year old winger who was drafted by Colorado. He has been named captain of the Knights and is a real thorn in the side of the opposition. He has a good work ethic, is a rather chippy player who hustles, whacks, hacks, and throws himself in front of the puck with reckless abandon. He has some offensive upside, is currently playing on the first line, but I don’t see a lot of chemistry between him and the phenomenal Rick Nash. His main strength is his style of play, he isn’t afraid to get his nose dirty and will drive the net and take a beating in order to create a screen or knock in a rebound. Main weakness is a tendency to take stupid penalties, but hopefully the C on his chest will get him to tone that aspect down a bit. The Avalanche haven’t had a player like him on their roster for a few years, and if he can keep working hard, he may eventually see duty in the NHL as an agitator who drives opponents crazy.
Aaron Lobb is an eighteen year old winger drafted by Tampa Bay. I think he has the best shot of being a NHLer of the drafted Knights. He has big league size, skating and ability, and it doesn’t hurt that Tampa is rather thin on the wings, well actually at most positions. This is a kid who should really take a long look at his chances to be playing in the pros, possibly alongside Lecavalier or Richards on the top 2 lines in Tampa in a few years, and really buckle down. He is a player who has improved each year in the league, and I expect that he will really dominate next year, his fourth in the league. His weaknesses are inconsistency and defensive zone coverage. A man his size should be able to make a difference almost every shift at this level. Whether its throwing a hit, or using his speed to forecheck, or creating offensive with his rapidly improving offensive talents. Unfortunately, Lobb seems to get lost every so many shifts.
Earlier I alluded to big league abilities, right now his defensive zone coverage seems to be about Peewee House. So far this season he has had several shifts where he gets mesmerized by the puck in his own zone and doesn’t keep an eye on his pointman. He hasn’t got the puck out on several occasions, including one that caused a goal. Again, I’m not a proponent for taking the safe play out and chipping out the puck every time it arrives near you, but Lobb has to work on his risk/reward decisions. Meaning, what is the reward for him trying to make a play at the line, and what is the risk of him failing to execute. He has the ability to burn people at the line, but not when standing still and unaware of where everyone is. His strengths include driving through the neutral zone with a full head of steam with the puck on his stick. He possesses the speed and ability to go inside or outside, this makes defenders back up and give up the blue line. Over the course of the season, he will have to take full advantage of this with his linemates. Watch for him to have a strong season and he will benefit from having opposing teams putting their best checkers and defence against Nash. He should have strong offensive numbers and will keep getting better over time.
Of the Knights eligible for this years draft, Rick Nash will be first and foremost, possibly going first overall. Has the ability to change a game every shift, loves to hit and shoot, and he is hungry for the puck. So far this season the left winger has 7 points in 4 games, and I would love to see the Knights acquire a veteran center to play with him. He isn’t using his teammates enough, if he could add a few short give and goes to his ability to stickhandle around a defender, he could be really, really, deadly in the offensive end.
Dennis Wideman is an eighteen year old defender who missed much of last season due to a dispute with Sudbury. He came over at the trading deadline and played well down the stretch for the Knights. This year he is in their top 4 on the point, quarterbacks the power play, is a good open ice hitter, and is a decent skater. Look for some team to take a flyer on him this year, having hordes of scouts at the IceHouse all year watching Nash won’t hurt his cause.
Dylan Hunter will likely be picked in the 2003 entry draft. The 16 year old center is the son of Dale Hunter. He is currently centering Nash and Bois on the top line, but I think he is in a bit over his head for that role. He would be better suited on a bump and grind third line, where he can use his forechecking and hitting ability effectively. Nash carries the puck into the zone a lot on the first line, and Hunter tends to be left out. Needs to work on his faceoffs, but that is natural for a kid his age. Is a good shot blocker, has a mean streak, and does have offensive upside, but is a few years away from being a first line center in the OHL.