There are just 44 days until the London Knights take to the ice at Budweiser Gardens in London, Ontario, to open up their 2017-18 OHL campaign. But on Wednesday, the team and media gathered on the concourse of their home arena as the Knights unveiled three additions to their roster ahead of the new season.
Radio play-by-play voice, Mike Stubbs, took to the microphone to introduce two players who couldn’t make it to the press conference – defenceman Ryan Bangs and forward Jesper Bratt – as well as one player who was formally welcomed to London as he sat at the podium with team president and head coach Dale Hunter as well as Knights’ GM Rob Simpson.
On hand was Dalton DuHart, the organization’s third-round pick in 2017.
“Dalton is from Grand Blanc, Michigan, which is actually the home of many of the Flint Firebirds, so he already has some OHL connections,” said Stubbs in his introduction of the 16-year-old. “He spent last year with Detroit Belle Tire under-16, averaged more than a point per game and then went to the OHL Cup and scored five goals in four games.”
But the Knights didn’t just bring in DuHart for his performance at the OHL Cup. While it surely had something to do with it, he’s a player the organization has watched for a while in the hopes of bringing him to London – a goal they achieved with this signing.
Dalton’s All (Du)Heart
A self-described two-way center, DuHart face lit up when he pulled on the Knights’ green and gold at Wednesday’s press conference. When asked why, he paid respects to organization he’s about to join.
“It’s incredible,” said the Michigan-born forward. “Just looking at the players that went through this organization already and where they’re at nowadays, it’s pretty cool to think about putting that sweater on.”
So excited to have signed with @GoLondonKnights big thanks to everyone who's supported me along the way, can't wait to get started!
— Dalton Duhart (@Dalton_DuHart19) August 9, 2017
But from an organizational standpoint, the Knights see what he has to offer on the ice.
“I think first off you notice his playmaking, his hockey sense on the ice,” said Simpson. “He plays and does a lot of things we teach our guys once they arrive and he does them by instinct. He makes a lot of difficult plays look really easily natural on the ice. I think those are some of the things that stood out. He’s very unselfish and uses his teammates around him and makes other players around him better. And as you saw at the OHL Cup too, he can score when he’s given the chance.”
Simpson went on to say that it was important for the organization to lock up DuHart after drafting him out of Detroit because he plays the type of game that makes players successful in the OHL today.
“I think it’s the small little plays,” said Simpson. “It’s these little plays that might not always lead to a goal at the end of the day, but they allow the play to continue to develop or put players in position to make another play to create offence or break out of your own on the defensive side of the puck.”
DuHart finished last season with 17 goals and 42 points in just 31 games for Belle Tire and will surely add some offence to the Knights lineup in 2017-18 while wearing the number 71.
Bangs and Bratt
Ryan Bangs is a 17-year-old defenceman out of Stittsville, Ontario. He’s on the smaller side, but put up 23 points in 24 games with the Arnprior Packers last season before adding three points in nine games with the Carleton Place Canadians. He was selected by the Knights 61st overall in 2016 and will don the number 44 in a Knights jersey next season.
Extremely excited to have officially signed with the @GoLondonKnights! Can't wait to get things started!
— Ryan Bangs (@RyanBangs9) August 9, 2017
Jesper Bratt was taken 49th overall in the 2017 CHL Import Draft and was a sixth-round pick of the New Jersey Devils back in 2016. He notched 22 points in 46 games with AIK IF in Sweden last season and should add some depth to the Knights next season. He’ll wear number 17 when he pulls on their colours in 2017-18.
Anaheim Ducks prospect and current Knights forward, Max Jones, was also on hand to welcome DuHart to the organization.
While the ice will go in on Friday at Bud Gardens, the team will get set for the start of their season as training camp opens at the end of August.
Andrew is in his 8th year reporting for The Hockey Writers covering the Toronto Maple Leafs. He began his broadcasting with CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada team as well as being part of their coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. He’s the former play-by-play voice of the London Jr. Knights for Rogers TV and currently hosts the Sticks in the 6ix podcast. You can follow him on Twitter at @AndrewGForbes.