The mecca for junior hockey for some, London has produced a number of NHL stars. From Rick Nash to Corey Perry and now to the newcomers in Mitch Marner and Christian Dvorak, the southwestern city in Ontario plays home to the OHL’s London Knights.
Now, two-time Memorial Cup champions and four-time OHL champs, the Knights are set to see a number of their current roster players drafted in the first round of this year’s NHL Draft – once again.
Matthew Tkachuk. Olli Juolevi. Max Jones. Tyler Parsons. Cliff Pu. And Victor Mete. Those are the names of the next generation of Knights’ NHL picks. At least those were the names on the schedule for the Combine this weekend.
And yet, they declined the option to participate in the fitness testing on Saturday and instead left early. The reasoning behind it reportedly being that they just finished their season on Sunday – winning the Memorial Cup.
London Knights: Injuries and Exhaustion
As was discussed in a recent piece, Tkachuk was a notable prospect that wouldn’t be taking part in the Combine from the start. Having played some of the OHL playoffs and the Memorial Cup tournament with a sprained ankle, it was noted that he wouldn’t be taking part in the fitness testing.
Enter the remaining five Knights. Only they didn’t enter on Saturday and just two of them were made available for comment – Tkachuk and Juolevi.
News from NHL Combine. While Patrik Laine & Jesse Puljujarvi were medically exempt, Olli Juolevi just "declined to participate" @TSNHockey
— Gino Reda (@GinoRedaTSN) June 4, 2016
For those questioning their declination of the fitness testing, it isn’t exactly going to make a major difference when it comes to where these six players end up. After all, Tkachuk and Juolevi are going to be top 10 picks – no fitness testing of any kind was going to change that.
But how about for guys on the bubble of the first round? How about a guy like Parsons who – through his play down the stretch – may have peaked the interest of more teams who might not have had him on their radar in the first place?
To me, it won’t make a major difference. See, most of these players have sat down and met with the teams that were interested in them anyways. Before the fitness tests, interviews are conducted by teams with particular players and management squads are able to get a feel for the players they are considering as possible picks.
For the Knights to have played so much hockey over the past two months and follow that up with a strenuous week of mental and physical deprivation isn’t going to change the minds of many general managers (or scouts for that matter).
Their nagging injuries from their playoff run and the exhaustion that has surely set in could, in some cases, actually play detriment to their overall performance on these tests.
Max Jones and the Others
Aside from those top two – Tkachuk and Juolevi – Jones is the only other Knight that will likely go in the first-round. And if his 12-game suspension in the playoffs didn’t hurt his chances, missing the Combine’s fitness tests likely won’t either.
Most have the 18-year-old pegged to go mid-20s. And after a rookie season in the OHL that saw him score 52 points (28g-24a) in 63 games, he’ll get a lot of consideration in that 22 to 28 range.
No Max Jones at NHL scouting combine for testing today. Sounds like he left Buffalo yesterday.
— Joe Haggerty (@HackswithHaggs) June 4, 2016
For guys like Pu, Mete and Parsons – chances are they’ll be happy just to hear their names called.
Parsons finished third on the North American goalie rankings and didn’t hurt his chances of being taken higher than some originally thought after his outstanding play during the OHL playoffs. While Pu and Mete certainly have some things to work on, they too did a good job this season of pushing their way up the ranks in terms of draft positioning.
So while most of the Knights were able to pull off a disappearing act of sorts when it came to media availability on Saturday, don’t take it as a sign of not caring. In fact, teams will get a chance to meet with their players after drafting them in a couple of weeks and you can bet that a rejuvenated group of Knights will have a lot more to show than what would’ve been exhibit in Saturday’s fitness tests.
That being said, could it have helped Jones or Parsons move up further in draft position had they stuck around? It’d be quite unlikely seeing just how deep this draft is going to be.
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.