The London Knights will be well represented at this year’s NHL Entry Draft, with three of the team’s top players set to be selected in the first round.
Matthew Tkachuk, Olli Juolevi and Max Jones have led the Knights to another extraordinary season. This year the team finished third in the Ontario Hockey League’s Western Conference, and posted a 51-14-2 record while doing so.
Most of the attention surrounding the Knights this season has been focused on Toronto Maple Leafs’ top prospect Mitch Marner, who dominated in his third season with the club. Marner’s impressive season very much overshadowed the impressive year Tkachuk had with the team. Tkachuck’s 30 goals and 77 assists was good for third on the team in scoring, and fifth in league scoring. Tkachuck’s game draws many similarities to that of his father Keith. That being said, the 18-year-old’s impressive hockey IQ and smooth skating ability has him among the top five on most mock drafts.
The next Knight projected to go in the top 10 of the draft is defenseman Olli Juolevi. The smooth skating defender’s performance this season has him already drawing comparisons to New York Ranger’s captain Ryan McDonagh. Juolevi posted 42 points in his first year in the OHL, after coming over from his native country of Finland. In fact, he’s even put up solid numbers in London’s playoff run, with 11 points in 14 postseason games thus far. At 6’2″ 180 pounds, he’s not the biggest defenseman available, but he has the tools to be a very effective NHL player. Only Sarnia Sting’s Jakob Chychrun is projected to go ahead of Juolevi, but who knows, if an NHL team likes what they see, it’s possible he could be selected earlier than his defensive counterpart.
Rounding out the potential first rounders is forward Max Jones, who is said to be this year’s Lawson Crouse. Crouse was selected 11th overall by the Florida Panthers last season, and projections suggest Jones might just be taken at the same position. Jones is a gritty, mean, hard-working winger who has played the majority of this season on London’s second line. He’s got a nose for the net and never gives up on the play. Much like Tkachuk and Juolevi, he’s got tools that could see him transition into an NHLer fairly quickly, although he would benefit from an extra year or two in the Canadian Hockey League. Jones is projected to go between the 10th and 20th pick, but his attitude might see him fall beyond that. Earlier in the playoffs, Jones was suspended 12 games after he laid this hit on Owen Sound’s Justin Brack.
The last time London has had this much top draft eligible talent was back in 2013 . That year, the team saw Bo Horvat (Vancouver Canucks), Max Domi (Arizona Coyotes) and Nikita Zadorov (Buffalo Sabres) all go in the early in the first round. Right now, Tkachuk, Juolevi and Jones have another thing to focus on, and that’s their OHL championship series against the Niagara IceDogs.