By the mid-way point of this year’s OHL season, the Knights had gotten off to a tremendous start, as the team sat atop the Western Conference standings with the highest winning percentage in the entire league.
The success this season has truly been a team effort. It was unclear at the start of the year whether star players Alex Formenton and Evan Bouchard would return from the NHL, so the lineup was ripe with opportunity for the first month and a half of the season.
In that first month and a half, Knights fans saw players step up and play major minutes – and with more responsibility than ever. Players like Connor McMichael, who led the team in points at the midway mark; Cole Tymkin, who had already posted a career high in points and goals scored by midseason; William Lochead, who returned home to London and has become a leader – on and off the ice; and Adam Boqvist, who has made a very smooth transition from European ice to North American ice, playing at over a point-per-game level. These players became standouts as they led the Knights to a strong start to the season.
Come Halloween, it was announced that both Bouchard and Formenton were going to be returning from their NHL teams. This sent ripple effects across the league. With Bouchard and Formenton back, Paul Cotter announced his commitment to the Knights. Cotter, a 4th round pick by the Vegas Golden Knights, along with over-ager Lochead, have brought a gritty toughness to the lineup that has transformed the team into a group that opponents do not like facing.
Bouchard and Formenton have shone in their returns to the OHL, with both players averaging over a point per game prior to the midway mark of the season (and with the Knights losing just one game that they’d played in during the first half). The pair would make any team a contender – let alone this year’s Knights squad.
With those three additions, the Knights went on to have a perfect month of November, winning 15 straight games to launch them into a race with the Ottawa 67’s for the best record in the league. The Knights also played their way into the CHL top 10 rankings and have become a mainstay there.
There is still a lot of work left for London, and the second half of the season brings new challenges and new-look teams (after having made moves ahead of the OHL’s January 10 trade deadline), but the Knights showed in the first half of the season that they’ve got the talent to go a long way in 2018-2019.
By Fraser Weir