- London Knights training camp can hurt your eyes.
But only because if you blink too much, you’ll miss it.
It is on now and will last until Wednesday when the Knights’ roster will be reduced in time for a Green and Gold game at 6 p.m. at Budweiser Gardens.
So, in an effort to save time, here is a very quick primer on some of the things to watch.
The goalie battle
Last year London entered the season with Jorday Kooy and Joseph Raaymakers in a shared tandem. Now that Raaymakers has graduated and is off to USports to play with St. F.X., Kooy comes into the season at 19 years old and all set to take over the reins as the Knights’ number one netminder. The back-up job becomes to one to watch in camp. The two front-runners for the job will be Brett Brochu and Matt Onuska. Brochu was a 6th round pick of London’s in 2018 and Onuska was acquired from the Kingston Frontenacs on August 24. He was a 7th round pick of the Frontenacs in 2018. London also has Nick Donofrio in camp. He spent last year with the Hamilton Bulldogs.
Filling roles on defence
With the graduations of Evan Bouchard, Will Lochead and Joey Keane and the likelihood that Adam Boqvist will play pro in either the NHL or the AHL this season, there are spots available. Hunter Skinner is a draft pick of the New York Rangers and will be slotted into one of them, but other names to watch will be big bodies Bryce Montgomery and Logan Mailloux, puck-moving Connor Federkow and Avery Winslow and steady Ben Roger who played in a regular seasdon game for the Knights last year. Montgomery, Winslow and Roger were all born in 2002. Federkow and Mailloux were picked in the 2019 OHL Priority Selection. Watch for European import pick Kirill Steklov and returnees Riley Coome, Alec Regula and Gerard Keane. 18-year old Liam Whittaker is coming off a strong year with the Komoka Kings and has played in two OHL regular season games.
The strength of youth
The OHL in 2019-2020 will be chock full of very talented 16 and 17-year olds and the London roster will be no exception. Tonio Stranges, Sahil Panwar, Luke Evangelista are heading into their second seasons and will be pushing for more ice time.
Sean McGurn played for the St. Thomas Stars last season and will be looking to impress at camp.
Stuart Rolofs and Max McCue were high picks in 2019.
Gruden is the son of John Gruden, who played and currently coaches in the National Hockey League. John Gruden also led the Hamilton Bulldogs to the 2018 OHL Championship. Johnny is a 5th round pick of the Ottawa Senators and has great play-making ability. It will be up to the Senators to decide whether he plays for them this season, plays for Belleville of the American Hockey League or spends the year in London. Gruden is a good bet to be part of Team USA at the World Junior Hockey Championship.
The Knights enter camp with five overagers on their roster: forwards Josh Nelson, Cole Tymkin and Paul Cotter, along with defenceman Riley Coome and goalie Nick Donofrio. Cotter is a draft pick of the Vegas Golden Knights and has signed with them. He could play professionally in their organization or could return to London. OHL teams are permitted three players born in 1999 for the upcoming season.
Of course, there are also surprises. There could be players who just keep making it impossible for management to do anything but keep them around. That becomes the true fun of training camp.
London will play their first pre-season game on Friday, August 30 when they host the Sarnia Sting at 7:30 at Budweiser Gardens.