London Knights: 5 Storylines to Follow in 2019-20
To say that the London Knights are a perennial powerhouse in the Ontario Hockey League would be a vast understatement. In fact, the Knights have clinched a postseason berth in each of their last 19 seasons of play — winning four OHL Championships and two Memorial Cups in the process.
And, ahead of the 2019-20 season, it appears as though the Knights are once again destined for an overwhelming amount of success.
Although a number of the team’s top players have departed the OHL in order to embark upon their respective professional careers, a new crop of wildly talented youngsters stand poised to take their places in 2019-20 — a perennial reality which has allowed London to remain not only competitive but downright deadly for the better part of two decades. Sure, question marks do remain within the team’s roster ahead of the upcoming season, however, London’s immeasurable depth will undoubtedly ensure that the team once again pushes deep into the postseason.
Five Storylines to Follow in 2019-20
If you are a die-hard fan of the Knights or just a follower of the Ontario Hockey League in general, here are five crucial storylines to follow which will surely revolve around London this upcoming season. If able to receive optimal outcomes from these storylines, expect the Knights to once again dominate their opposition on a nightly basis.
However, if the Knights fail to receive positive outcomes in a number of the areas of interest detailed below, they could stare down an early exit in the 2020 OHL postseason.
1. Is Kooy Ready for the Spotlight?
Over the past two OHL seasons, the Knights came to rely heavily upon the abilities of Joseph Raaymakers — an incredibly competitive goaltender who appeared in a whopping 93 regular season games for London. However, given his 1998-birth, Raaymakers will now move onto the next stage of his playing career — a reality which will afford Jordan Kooy with the opportunity to prove himself as a legitimate starting goaltender at the major-junior level.
Fortunately for the Knights, Kooy should enjoy a relatively seamless transition into the starter’s role in 2019-20, as the youngster has already appeared in 50 regular season contests for London on top of 11 postseason appearances as well. As a seventh-round selection of the Vegas Golden Knights dating back to the 2018 NHL Draft, Kooy has the size, confidence, and raw ability to take the OHL by storm this coming campaign. Standing 6-foot-2 in stature, Kooy is an intimidating presence in-goal who has the ability to make highlight-reel saves with ease. If able to play with consistency, Kooy could very well lead a young London squad to considerable playoff success in 2019-20.
2. Will Luke Evangelista Explode?
An injury riddled rookie season limited Luke Evangelista to a mere 27 regular season games played for the Knights in 2018-19, during which he was able to put forth just two assists. However, the former first round choice of the Knights in the 2018 OHL Priority Selection has been widely regarded as a lethal young prospect for quite some time — once healthy and afforded with consistent playing time, the youngster could very well explode offensively for London in his first year of NHL Draft eligibility.
Although he tips the scale at just 165-pounds and stands 5-foot-11 in height, Evangelista’s game carries significant heft on the ice owing to his raw skill set and innate abilities. Blessed with lightning quick hands, Evangelista makes confident plays without hesitation and has the ability to score goals in addition to creating opportunities for his teammates. What’s more is that Evangelista features tremendous on-ice intelligence as well, as the youngster has a natural feel for the game and can navigate the ice surface with both purpose and efficiency. If able to emerge offensively in 2019-20, Evangelista would add another layer of depth to the Knights’ attack.
3. Is Stranges Set for Stardom?
Antonio Stranges has long been known for his absolutely outrageous puck-handling abilities, as the youngster has scored highlight-reel goals, dished out jaw-dropping passes, and sent fans crazy on social media owing to his advanced abilities on the ice. All of this has come through just his first season of play in the OHL — a fact which has fans and scouts alike buzzing with anticipation as Stranges enters into his first season of NHL Draft eligibility.
— TPEHockey (@TPEHockey) July 24, 2019
The main question facing Stranges as he embarks upon his sophomore campaign with the Knights will be just how good can the native of Plymouth, Michigan, become? Owing to his raw skill set, Stranges has drawn considerable comparisons to former London superstar Mitch Marner, and for good reason. Like Marner, Stranges owns devastating on-ice intelligence and the confidence necessary to execute high-percentage scoring plays with apparent ease. However, in his sophomore season with the Knights, Marner scored 44 goals and 126 points — so, only time will tell as to whether or not the Stranges-Marner comparison is accurate.
4. Will the Knights’ 2003-born Rookies Excel?
The Knights drafted a whopping 19 prospects in the 2019 OHL Priority Selection, all of which ranging in skill, ability, and position. And, while some will surely take longer to develop than others, it appears as though London’s initial three selections will play a significant role with the team this coming season. Drafted in the first and second rounds, respectively, it appears as though Stuart Rolofs, Logan Mailloux, and Max McCue will all be afforded with considerable opportunities in their rookie OHL campaigns.
In Rolofs, London boasts a young prospect who should have little issue adjusting to the major-junior level. Standing 6-foot-2 and weighing in at 190-pounds, Rolofs has the size necessary to compete with the league’s seasoned veterans and the skating abilities required to become an instant impact player regardless of the playing time which he will receive as a freshman. Further, in Mailloux and McCue, the Knights boast a dynamic defender and a tantalizing playmaker — two prospects who should also adjust relatively easily given their respective sizes and ability to process the pace of play at a high-level.
5. Could London’s Young Blue Line Buckle?
London’s blue line throughout the 2018-19 season was absolutely blistering, as the likes of Adam Boqvist, Evan Bouchard, Matt Timms, Will Lochead, and Joey Keane stood as lethal offensive threats in addition to their incredible defensive abilities within their own zone. However, with all of which surely moving on to the next stages in their respective hockey careers in 2019-20, the Knights will now need to rely on a steadily developing core of blueliners who are not only young but relatively inexperienced as well.
While Alec Regula will return for his third season of play with the Knights, London must come to rely upon the likes of Mailloux, Hunter Skinner, Bryce Montgomery, and others such as Benjamin Roger and Liam Whittaker to afford them with quality minutes at both ends of the ice throughout the upcoming campaign. Although ensuring such will certainly be a major ask of the Knights, the team could falter quite significantly if unable to attain consistent defending this upcoming season. Loaded offensively and in possession of a solid starting goaltender, London will need sturdy defending if it wishes to reach its potential with the Western Conference in 2019-20.