When National Hockey League rookie camps and training camps opened, an OHL-high sixteen players eligible to play for the London Knights this season were whisked away to various hockey spots around North America.
The trickle back effect began just before London’s season opener in Sarnia and may continue well into October.
Here is a look at who is back with the London Knights and what their NHL experience was like.
Brandon Crawley – returned from Pittsburgh on September 28th
Crawley attended the Budweiser Gardens Rookie Tournament with the Penguins and impressed with his play, earning an invite to main camp – not the easiest thing to do as an invite. Crawley has also attended rookie camp with Columbus and will see big minutes as a 19-year old this season.
Chris Martenet – returned from Dallas on September 28th
Martenet signed his first contract just before the start of the Memorial Cup in Red Deer, adding another high point in the road that saw him begin as an undrafted free agent with the London Knights. At nearly 6’8, Martenet has rare height and he combines that with great co-ordination. With only two years of major junior under his belt, he will continue his growth on the ice as an overager this year.
Janne Kuokkanen – returned from Carolina on September 28th
After impressing at Knights’ training camp and then recording five points in two exhibition games, Kuokkanen put in a strong showing for Carolina and got himself into a pre-season game for the ‘Canes. Kuokkanen got into a game against Tampa Bay where he assisted on Linus Wallmark’s goal.
J.J. Piccinich – returned from Toronto on September 27th
Piccinich is in a rare spot for a Major Junior player. He was drafted by the Maple Leafs in 2014. That was before he began playing for the London Knights, which means he does not fall under the rule that gives NHL teams two years to sign a player from the OHL, WHL or QMJHL. Piccinich played for Toronto in the Budweiser Gardens Rookie Tournament and received an invite to main camp with the Leafs. The flexibility of his situation will allow him to play this year as an overager.
Nic Mattinen – returned from Toronto on September 27th
Hockey players throw around the term, “living the dream” about as often as they use “hello.” Mattinen really is living the dream. He was selected by the Maple Leafs in the 6th round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft after seeing limited time as a rookie defenceman on a deep Knights’ blue line last year. He impressed at rookie camp and received an invite to main camp for Toronto.
Cliff Pu – returned from Buffalo on September 26th
Pu got his first taste of an NHL training camp this fall after being selected in the third round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft by the Buffalo Sabres. He arrives back in London all set to hear chants of “Puuuu” just about every time he touches the puck this season. Pu was able to show off his speed and awareness in Buffalo and remains high on the Sabres radar.
Owen MacDonald – returned from St. Louis on September 21st
MacDonald earned an invite to Blues’ camp as a free agent and played for St. Louis in the Traverse City tournament. The Blues ended up fifth in the tournament and MacDonald played in two games.
C.J. Yakimowicz – returned from Pittsburgh on September 20th
Not many players grow up cheering for a team and one day get to pull on that team’s sweater and play. Yakimowicz grew up in Pennsylvania, four hours from Pittsburgh and earned an invite to play for the Penguins in the Budweiser Gardens Rookie Tournament. He pushed the dream even higher by scoring a goal in third period comeback to force overtime against the Leafs.
Victor Mete – returned from Montreal on September 20th
Mete entered the Budweiser Gardens Rookie Tournament with the Canadiens after being selected in the 4th round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. All you had to do was look at the three star selections to know how he fared. On the tournament’s biggest stage vs the Toronto Maple Leafs on the Saturday night, Mete put up two assists and was named the game’s second star.
Players still away…
Mitch Marner – was called the best Leafs’ player on the ice by reporter Ryan Van Horne after a two assist performance in Halifax against the Ottawa Senators.
Matthew Tkachuk – played on a line with Sam Bennett and Troy Brouwer in the Flames’ pre-season opener in Calgary and was his usual skilled and disruptive self, recording 4 penalty minutes and a nwhole lot of attention from the Oilers in just over 16 minutes of ice time.
Olli Juolevi – played a pre-season game for the Canucks in Edmonton and logged more than fifteen minutes of ice time. Canucks’ GM Jim Benning told canucksarmy.com, “…we got him penciled in for a couple games. We want our fans to see him in some exhibition games and see where it goes.”
Max Jones – played a pre-season game for the Ducks against Anaheim and played nine minutes in a 2-1 loss. The Ducks were very impressed with him in a summer development camp and continue to like what they see from the guy taken 24th overall in June.
Tyler Parsons – has been with the Calgary Flames and battled a bit of a flu bug early on. Parsons has not played a pre-season game just yet, but there is still a very good chance he could see some action. The Flames play Vancouver on Friday, September 30th.
Jack Roslovic – the Winnipeg Jets’ first rounder has never played a game with the Knights and that could stay true. If he does not make the Jets, he could play in the American Hockey League. If Winnipeg feels his development would be best in Major Junior, London owns his rights.