There are still a few camping trips, the odd thunderstorm and what everyone hopes is a lot of sunny weather to go before the 2022-23 Ontario Hockey League season begins.
None of that has stopped the London Knights from getting ready.
London added their second-round pick from the 2022 OHL Priority Selection on May 19 as they signed forward Sam O’Reilly to a standard players agreement.
O’Reilly is coming off an electric performance for the Vaughan Kings at the OHL Cup where he scored six times in five games for the Kings and led them to the quarter-finals, where their season ended after running into a buzzsaw of talent from the Toronto Jr. Canadiens (15 of their 18 players were drafted by OHL teams).
The finish to that game also saw the end of a chapter in O’Reilly’s hockey career.
“It was my last couple of games with all of my closest buddies that I had been playing with throughout minor hockey. It was a great experience that the OHL put together and we were able to finish playing the best of the best minor hockey that you can get.”
The Kings were 19-8-1 in the Greater Toronto Hockey League in 2021-22 and seven of O’Reilly’s Vaughan teammates were chosen by OHL teams on draft day.
“We had a really close bond,” O’Reilly said. “Some of us came up together starting at about six years old. We started playing hockey together so it was really special to (play our U16 year) and have such a successful season.”
Three teammates went to Flint, two to Sault Ste. Marie and one to the Erie Otters, so there is a very good chance they could be playing on the same ice surface again. They just might be wearing different uniforms.
And that could be tough on them.
“Sam is an in-your-face player,” said Rob Simpson, Knights associate general manager. “He plays hard and plays gritty but he can pick corners as well. In a couple of years, he’s the kind of player you aren’t going to want to play against.”
O’Reilly said on draft day that he wants to “play like Tom Wilson.”
Simpson said he is always reluctant to affix a direct comparison from one player to another but has no problem with O’Reilly styling what he does on the ice after Wilson.
“He’s got the jam to play in a physical way and he’s also got the skills and talent to be able to play an offensive game as well,” Simpson said.
In the meantime, O’Reilly is just taking in the idea of being a Knight.
“Through the fan base and the ownership with the Hunters, it’s just top class and I couldn’t ask for anything better,” O’Reilly said. “It’s the London Knights.”
And now he is a part of the team.