The London Knights’ roster is aging at a rapid rate.
When London opened the season, they had six pure rookies in the lineup and five more players who had played 15 games or less.
The return of Cliff Pu gave them a little more experience. Max Jones and Robert Thomas were re-assigned to London.
On Friday night, against Sault Ste. Marie, the Knights stand to put out their most veteran lineup yet after adding Tyler Rollo from the Peterborough Petes and getting the news that Sam Miletic is being returned to London from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
“Any time you can add a 37-goal scorer to your lineup, it helps,” says Knights’ General Manager, Rob Simpson. “It gives you added depth that has been in the league and it gives you a player who has been in the league and knows what it takes to produce at this level.”
Miletic turned his 37-goal season from last year into an invite to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ development camp in the summer. From there, he went to rookie camp, where he earned a spot in main camp and got himself into a couple of pre-season games, even scoring a goal against Vezina Trophy winner, Sergei Bobrovsky and the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Thinking back about it, Miletic chuckles: “It was my first time playing in an NHL building, so that was pretty special. I kind of tell myself he was out of position and I had just had to tap it in, so I didn’t really have to do too much, but anyway you put it, it’s pretty cool to score a goal against a Vezina winner.”
Miletic kept on impressing the Penguins and ended up being rewarded in the biggest way.
“I left all my stuff in London. I only packed for a week because I planned to be back for sure and I just kept sticking around and playing and more and more guys kept going home. I got to the rink one day and (Penguins’ assistant general manager) Bill Guerin told me that he wanted to sign me to an NHL contract.”
And that was that. Miletic had himself a three-year, entry-level deal and a trip to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton where he spent a couple of weeks with Pittsburgh’s farm club before finding out he would be heading back to London to play a final season of Major Junior Hockey.
Some players might see that as a whole bunch of steps forward, up to the NHL and then a whole bunch of steps back to where you had been a season ago, but Simpson knows Miletic won’t take it that way.
“Not many guys go to main camp as a free agent and get signed, especially with an organization like Pittsburgh. He was pretty excited to get back and get started and he looks at this season as a big one for him even though he has already been signed.”
Miletic ranked 12th in goals in the Ontario Hockey League last year, but only 27th in shots on goal. The Knights will be looking for him to use his shot even more this season, with the hope that he might have more personal success, propelling London to more team success.
The Knights will also debut Tyler Rollo to their home fans on Friday when they play the Greyhounds. Rollo is from Burlington and was acquired from the Peterborough Petes on Wednesday for a conditional fourth-round draft pick.
He put up five points in his first three games of the season with the Petes and says it is exciting to become a Knight.
“I know it’s a very prestigious organization,” says Rollo. “Everyone wants to be a London Knight.”
AM980’s coverage of the Knights and Greyhounds will begin at 6:30 p.m. Play-by-play can be heard at 7:30 on AM980, at AM980.ca and on the Radioplayer Canada app.