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A very early look at the London Knights in 2017-18

Mike Stubbs/AM 980

With the OHL’s off-season officially underway, here is a very early look at the London Knights in 2017-18.

Gone:

Owen MacDonald – The current longest-serving member of the Knights is headed to Acadia University to play for the Axemen.

J.J. Piccinich – The Knights’ captain in 16-17 has signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs and will likely spend the year with the Toronto Marlies.

Dante Salituro – He will be looking to land a full-time spot with the Blue Jackets’ AHL affiliate, the Cleveland Monsters.

READ MORE: Two New Knights

99% gone:

Mitchell Stephens – He has played three games with the Syracuse Crunch in the Calder Cup finals and will probably spend next season there with a shot a few call-ups to Tampa Bay. He’s that versatile and he’s that good.

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Janne Kuokkanen – One year in the OHL will be enough to show Carolina that he is ready for the American Hockey League at 19. Kuokkanen is able to make the jump a year early because he was not property of a Major Junior team when the Hurricanes drafted him.

Mitch Vande Sompel – He signed an entry-level deal with the New York Islanders in October, 2016 and will most certainly find himself in Bridgeport of the AHL with the Sound Tigers. (By the way, a Sound Tiger is not a tiger that hunts prey with its exceptional hearing or anything like that. The name actually pays tribute to Long Island Sound.)

Tyler Parsons – After winning every team championship a player could win in junior hockey, he will be headed to the Stockton Heat of the AHL. The Calgary Flames’ goaltending situation is very much in flux and there could be tremendous openings or a glut of goalies on the farm team. Glut or not, Parsons’ play and second round draft status will earn him time in the crease.

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90% gone:

Olli Juolevi – This is an interesting one. Since he was drafted by the Vancouver Canucks while playing with the Knights, Juolevi has just two possible destinations: London or Vancouver. If the Canucks liked the word rebuild more than they appear to, it would be easier to say that Juolevi would have to play his way off their team. It may depend on how much he is able to bulk up in the off-season and how the early look that Vancouver gives to him goes. Chances are, he will be in the NHL.

The big question in camp:

Max Jones – He is also an interesting case. What do the Anaheim Ducks believe Jones will be as a player? Only they know. If they want a physical, bang-and-crash guy who can score when he gets a chance, Jones can do that for them right now. If they see him as a potential top-two line player, then another year of major junior would serve him well. (See Arizona’s handling of Max Domi.) Jones performed well for the San Diego Gulls in their Calder Cup playoff run. He will get a long look from the Ducks in camp and the NHL pre-season and will become a day-to-day question mark for Knights’ fans. Is he coming back or not?

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The overagers:

Brandon Crawley – He and Victor Mete are now the longest-serving London Knights, although Crawley has an edge in games played. He is entering his fourth season and really grew his game last season. Crawley will have professional opportunities, but will have a chance to be a dominant blue-liner, which could solidify a pro contract beyond next year.

Adrian Carbonara – He will be fun to watch in 2017-18, both on and off the ice. If Cameron Lizotte returns as an over-ager in Erie, they will rival each other for “Best-dressed OHLer.” Carbonara can play the game any way you want to play it and that makes him perfect for the role he will be in. Look for a career high in points.

Sam Miletic – After playing 35 games as a rookie for the Knights in 2015-16, Miletic returned and had a monstrous season for a 19-year-old player with such little experience. He led the team with 37 goals and will be counted on to score like that again.

READ MORE: COMMENTARY: Class-action lawsuit against the OHL approved; Now the real action will begin

The forwards:

Cliff Pu – He led London in scoring and will now take aim at an OHL scoring title. Pu is a draft pick of the Sabres, but given the youth already on Buffalo’s roster, he will be given a longer look in camp than last season and will spend a final year in the OHL.

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Robert Thomas – He will become a first-round NHL draft pick and will continue his climb as an elite all-zone player in the Ontario Hockey League.

Alex Formenton – If you ordered a do-over for the 2015 OHL Priority Selection, Formenton would take the largest jump. He was an 11th round pick and will probably go in the top three rounds of the NHL Draft. What he learned as a rookie, coupled with more ice time will allow him to climb up the scoring charts.

Liam Foudy – Like so many players who have come through the Knights’ organization as high picks, Foudy was brought along slowly and adjusted very well to that. By the playoffs, he was showing real flashes of what he will become as a player.

Cole Tymkin – He earned ice time right from the start, which is not easy to do on as skilled a roster as London had last year. Grit and toughness come naturally to Tymkin. He will get more opportunities to show off his offensive ability.

Josh Nelson – An excellent skater who got a chance to see what the OHL was all about in the 39 games he played. He will be looking for an everyday roster spot in his second season.

Billy Moskal – The Knights’ second round pick in the 2016 OHL Priority Selection, he starred for the St. Marys Lincolns and was named the GOJHL’s Western Conference Rookie of the Year. In the playoffs, scouts were calling him the best player on the ice in games he played. Expect Moskal to make a fairly seamless transition to the OHL.

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Richard Whittaker – Was able to go on a huge playoff run with the London Nationals, right to the Sutherland Cup finals. He had nine points in 25 playoff games for the Nats in a role that wasn’t asking him to be a big scorer.

Alex Turko – He received a 10-game audition and showed he could carve out a nice role for himself. As an 18-year-old, he will be competing with younger players for ice time, but every club has room for the steadiness and consistency he brings.

Harrison Cottam – A signing for the future that came during the season. The future has arrived.

READ MORE: Knights’ assistant GM joins the Arizona Coyotes

The defencemen:

Victor Mete – In what will be a final major junior season, Mete will continue to be both stifling and dangerous. He is one of the best shot and pass blockers in the league.

Evan Bouchard – As the Oakville native has filled out, he has become more and more dominant and a late birthday has kept him out of the NHL Entry Draft until 2018. Look for Bouchard’s offensive numbers to really jump.

Nic Mattinen – Entering his third season in the Ontario Hockey League and a year away from stepping into the lineup for the Toronto Marlies, Mattinen will continue to be a force in the defensive zone. The thing to watch for is his point shot. He shoots the puck incredibly hard. Look for him to do it more often in 2017-18.

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Jacob Golden – An exceptional skater and playmaker who was allowed to grow the rest of his game last year and will be looking for regular minutes this season.

Riley Coome – Has an opportunity to be the next Tommy Hughes for the Knights. He came out of AA hockey and had a solid season in the GOJHL as a 17-year-old, even seeing action in six games with the Knights.

The goalies

Tyler Johnson – After backing up Tyler Parsons last year, he will get the first crack at the number one job.

Jordan Kooy –Played in Major Midget, the GOJHL and the OHL, often all at the same time. Impressed as a 16-year-old. Now gets a shot at a full-time role with the Knights.

The rookies:

Lucas Rowe – As London’s first round pick, he is ready to spend the year with the Knights and will look to bring his skills and consistency to the OHL.

Andrew Perrott – London’s second round pick is a right-shot defenceman who has poise, skill and pedigree.

Draft picks looking to earn spots:

Liam Robertson – Forward with good size who played in Whitby last year.

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Ryan Bangs – Offensive defenceman averaged nearly a point per game for the Arnprior Packers. Also saw time with the powerhouse Carleton Place Canadians in the CCHL.

Christian Clark – Forward with grit, energy and scoring ability, he put up 27 points in 44 games with the St. Thomas Stars in 16-17 and added 105 penalty minutes.

Prospects:

Cole and Christian Krygier – They are the twin sons of Todd Krygier. The Knights’ last twin brother combination of Matt and Ryan Rupert worked out very well. Both have NCAA options at the University of Wisconsin.

Surprises:

The London Knights always manage to find at least one…