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 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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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