On a night that was focused on the debut and return of two OHL veterans, a few youngsters helped to steal the show as the London Knights defeated the Erie Otters 6-2.
Second-year forward Tonio Stranges scored twice while another sophomore, Luke Evangelista, had three assists. Rookie Brett Brochu made 25 saves in his first regular-season start in the Ontario Hockey League for his first career victory.
That’s not to say that the veterans sat quiet on the night.
Alec Regula made his return from the Detroit Red Wings and scored a goal and added an assist. Ryan Merkley made his London Knights debut after being acquired earlier in the day and recorded two assists.
Connor McMichael upped his goal total to four with a pair.
He opened the scoring on a feed from Evangelista for the only goal of the first period.
Brochu made sure of that with an incredible glove save at the side of the net for one of his 23 stops on the night.
Stranges put London ahead 2-0 early in the second period, only to have the Otters cut the Knights lead in half courtesy of a Jack Duff wrister that got under the arm of Brochu.
Evangelista sent a feather pass to Matvey Guskov for his first of the season for a 3-1 London advantage through 40 minutes.
Once again Erie got to within one goal when Chad Yetman buried a Jacob Golden feed from behind the net just 38 seconds after the opening faceoff.
Goals by Stranges, Regula and McMichael put the game away for the Knights.
London outshot the Otters 37-25 and went 1-for-4 on the power play.
Details on the Merkley deal
It has been the most talked about trade in the Ontario Hockey League since last year’s trade deadline but there isn’t much to dissect in the deal between London and Peterborough that brought Ryan Merkley to the Knights. London sent a third-round pick in 2022 to the Petes. It originally belonged to the Niagara Ice Dogs. London also included a conditional 2nd or 3rd round pick in 2024. None of those selections originally belonged to the Knights. The second rounder would be from the Ice Dogs. The third rounder was owned by Erie. In total, the Knights will give up a maximum of two draft picks.
Alec Regula was set to be the old guy on the London Knights blue line this year. And he was born in the year 2000. With the addition of Ryanb Merkley, he gets a little help. Regula made his season debut with the Knights on Friday against the Otters after being returned to London by the Detroit Red Wings. the West Bloomfield, Mich., native was injured in training camp with Detroit and did not get a chance to play in a pre-season game, but was cleared to play in time for this weekend. The Wings selected Regula in the 3rd round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft,
Other familiar faces back in the OHL
Londoner Ryan Suzuki appeared in three games for the Carolina Hurricanes during the 2019 NHL pre-season. He didn’t record a point but he got a taste of what life will be like for him in the very near future. With the help of his brother Nick, the Monteal Canadiens and some fortunate scheduling Suzuki also gave his father Rob a wild Saturday night as both brothers played in different games at the same time. Suzuki was reassigned to the Barrie Colts on Thursday.
Thomas Harley of the Mississauga Steelheads just kept hanging around in Dallas. Roster moves would be made without his name being included all the way to the final weekend of the regular season. It is rare for an 18-year old defenceman to push for a spot in the NHL. Even Miro Heiskanen of the Stars arrived at 19, by Harley’s play forced the issue. In the end Dallas decided that another year of major junior would be best for Harley’s development so he has rejoined Mississauga. Earlier in the week Dallas returned Ty Dellandrea to the Flint Firebirds as well.
For the second consecutive weekend the London Knights play back-to-back games in exactly the same order: home on Friday and on the road on Saturday. London will be in Hamilton for a 7:00 faceoff on Saturday night. The Bulldogs are a very young team. They opened the season with a 4-3 win over the Sarnia Sting but dropped their next two to Erie and Windsor.
The pre-game show will get underway at 6:30 on 980 CFPL, at http://www.980cfpl.ca and on the Radioplayer Canada app.