Knights turn to WHL over­ager to shore up blue­line as home-and-home se­ries against Wind­sor be­gins.

Of­fence con­tin­ues to be Lon­don’s prob­lem with just 14 goals through eight games

The London Free Press - - FRONT PAGE - RYAN PYETTE THE LON­DON FREE PRESS

The Knights los­ing streak is still alive.

The OHL’s last-place team dropped its sixth straight game, 3-1 on Memo­rial Cup ban­ner-rais­ing night Thurs­day in Wind­sor. This one was a heart­breaker. Spit­fires cap­tain Aaron Luchuk scored the win­ner — his sec­ond of the game — with five min­utes left in the third pe­riod af­ter a puck tricked through goalie Tyler John­son’s pads.

Lon­don cre­ated a lot of chances and played bet­ter de­fen­sively. But they still don’t have enough fin­ish. They have only scored 14 goals in eight games this sea­son and that’s not nearly enough at this level.

Their big guns were silent again. Har­ri­son Cot­tam scored the Knights lone goal in the first pe­riod, his first OHL goal.

Ear­lier in the day the Knights, need­ing a de­fence­man older than 18 to an­chor their blue-line, brought in over-ager Shane Collins, for­merly of the Western league’s Prince Ge­orge Cougars.

The Knights sent a 2018 14th round pick to Bar­rie, which has first crack at OHL waiver claims and grabbed him off the wire.

“We did a lot of home­work on him through scouts I know and peo­ple who watch the (WHL),” Lon­don GM Rob Simp­son said. “He was a third-rounder in their league. He skates and moves pucks well and is strong de­fen­sively in his own end. We liked a lot of the feed­back we were get­ting and heard he had good char­ac­ter and was a good ex­am­ple for younger d-men.”

The hope is Collins, a hard worker in the weight room and on the ice, will han­dle some of the min­utes and sit­u­a­tions some of the rook­ies are be­ing forced to play with­out many vet­er­ans on the back end.

The 20-year-old from Rose­town, Sask., ar­rived Thurs­day morn­ing, in time to play in Wind­sor.

Collins’ pres­ence cre­ates a sur­plus of last-year ma­jor ju­nior play­ers in Lon­don. The Knights have four and are al­lowed to dress only three per game. For now, one of the three for­wards — Sam Miletic, Tyler Rollo and Adrian Car­bonara — will have to sit out.

Miletic is a po­ten­tial 40-goal scorer. The Knights called Car­bonara a “big part” of what they were do­ing this year and Rollo is right back where he started in Peter­bor­ough when the Petes had too many 20-year-olds.

“We have four on our ros­ter and we’ll stick with that (for now),” Simp­son said. “We’ll take some time and eval­u­ate where our team is.”

There are still OHL teams un­der the over-ager limit — namely Ni­a­gara, Oshawa, Ottawa and Bar­rie. As a whole, it’s a thin year for 20-year-olds in the league and that’s why Lon­don had to go out­side the prov­ince to get one.

The ad­di­tion of Collins doesn’t mean the Knights younger play­ers can re­lax. They are still a ma­jor com­po­nent of this team — and hope for the fu­ture. At some point, a few of the kids have to show ev­ery­one they are ca­pa­ble of be­ing stand­outs in the league.

“At dif­fer­ent times, some of the young guys have shown re­ally well,” Simp­son said. “We’ve seen good games out of (goalie) Jor­dan Kooy. In Sag­i­naw, he was great there. Josh Nel­son has scored some goals for us. (Alec) Reg­ula has looked good at times. (Billy) Moskal and (Liam) Foudy have shown some spurts.

“It’s con­sis­tency ev­ery night that’s needed to take the next step and be good now. We need all those younger guys to play a big­ger role than maybe they would’ve in the past with the depth of our where our team had been.”

Prust sign­ing

For­mer Knight Bran­don Prust will sign au­to­graphs at the Bud­weiser Gar­dens con­course Sun­day from 1-2 p.m. in sup­port of his Prusty4Kids char­ity be­fore Lon­don faces Owen Sound. The rugged winger, who had a try­out with the Kings this fall, has skated with the Knights re­cently and is still look­ing to play pro this sea­son.

New threads

The Knights are wear­ing cus­tom sweaters Fri­day to high­light the Dream Lot­tery, which sup­ports Lon­don hospi­tals, as part of spe­cialty jer­sey char­ity night. The dream lot­tery logo is on the crest with the Knights hel­met on each shoul­der, plus a heck of a lot of golden stars on the waist and sleeve ar­eas.

Sher­wood back

Kole Sher­wood’s re­turn to Flint is a ma­jor boost for the Fire­birds. He scored 33 goals and had 85 points on the team’s first line last year. It also helps the Knights, who re­ceive Oshawa’s sec­ond-round pick in 2020 once the winger plays one more OHL game.

The grand to­tal Lon­don re­ceived for Sher­wood, a free agent sign­ing, was three sec­ond rounders. Of course, the Knights could use his scor­ing touch in the lineup right now.

It’s a lit­tle sur­pris­ing Sher­wood isn’t in Cleve­land with the Amer­i­can league team, but the Blue Jack­ets brass fig­ured some more sea­son­ing in ju­nior wouldn’t hurt. Basil McRae, the ex-Knights GM, is part of that Colum­bus de­ci­sion-mak­ing group.

JA­SON KRYK/POST­MEDIA NEWS

Lon­don Knights goalie Tyler John­son and team­mates dive to deny a Spit­fires chance dur­ing the first pe­riod of their OHL game at the WFCU Cen­tre in Wind­sor on Thurs­day night. The Spit­fires scored twice late to win 3-1.

JA­SON KRYK/POST­MEDIA NEWS

Lon­don Knights goalie Tyler John­son gets across to stop a shot by Spit­fires’ Luke Boka dur­ing the first pe­riod of their OHL game at the WFCU Cen­tre in Wind­sor on Thurs­day night. The Spit­fires won 3-1. FULL COV­ER­AGE OF THE GAME AT LFPRESS.COM

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