The Mastercard Memorial Cup is in Alberta this season for the first time since 1974. Since the London Knights are chock full of 2016 NHL Draft first-year eligible prospects and Red Deer is a relatively short drive, I made the trek up to check out Monday evening’s game.
Here’s my takeaways from London’s 9-1 whupping of the Brandon Wheat Kings.
LW MATTHEW TKACHUK
2nd-ranked North American skater by Central Scouting
As we were killing time in the Fan Fest beside the Enmax Centrium, a few fans told us that they heard that Tkachuk was injured. When he skated around, it was apparent that he was labouring a little bit. But besides a hitch in his giddy-up, he was one of London’s best players.
Skating on the top line with Christian Dvorak and Mitch Marner, Tkachuk made some really nice passes, protected the puck in the corners well, and set up Dvorak for a gorgeous tap-in on the first London power-play with a “blink and you’ll miss it” no-look cross-crease pass. By the time Brandon’s goalie realized that Tkachuk had the puck, it was on Dvorak’s stick and behind him. Tkachuk also scored on a two-on-one rush with Marner with 30 seconds left in the first to put the game out of reach.
An obviously not 100% Tkachuk was better than 95% of the players on either side, and he was still going into the corners hard and battling for pucks. I’m curious what he could do at 100%.
D OLLI JUOLEVI
5th-ranked North American skater by Central Scouting
Paired primarily with Aiden Jamieson (the Knights rotate bodies on the back-end situationally), Juolevi was smooth as silk. He regularly started off rushes with smart outlet passes, and generated lots of chances by his puck-moving abilities alone. He was rarely caught out of position and played a really smart game, using his size to box out attackers and his skating to keep the puck out of dangerous areas in his own end.
One word to describe him: poised.
LW MAX JONES
14th-ranked North American skater by Central Scouting
There are going to be 29 teams that absolutely hate Max Jones but really want him on their hockey club. He was all over the scoresheet: he took three minors, he drew three minors, and he had three shots and two points. He has good acceleration and uses his size well, to the point where he’s often a cross between a bowling ball and a battering ram in terms of his physicality.
Moreover, he was quite effective at agitating the Brandon players once London got a lead: he took a nice whack at Nolan Patrick late in the first period, and for the remainder of the game the Wheaties seemed just as interested in mucking it up with Jones as they were with trying to get back into the game.
On top of being an absolute pest, Jones has high-end skill. You’d hope he can reel in his antics a little bit, but you’d probably also want to be sure he’s engaged physically in every game. He was against Brandon, and he was a huge difference-maker for the Knights (along with linemates Cliff Pu and Aaron Berisha).
D VICTOR METE
74th-ranked North American skater by Central Scouting
Playing mostly on the second pairing, Mete is a smaller defender with almost Pu-like skating ability. He has the ability to keep pace with almost any attacker. Notably, he was able to keep up with Brandon’s superstar teen Nolan Patrick twice, once while skating backwards.
He also seemingly has a never-ending gas tank; he was kept out on the penalty kill for an entire two-minute span (despite the Knights having a couple whistles and the ability to change him off) and when the Knights went to a short bench in the third period after they went up 9-1, Mete was out for basically every second shift anyway.
C CLIFF PU
75th-ranked North American skater by Central Scouting
You could tell when Pu had the puck, because London fans loved shouting “Puuuuuuu!” Aside from the giggles, Pu seems to be a solid all-around player with really great skating. His mobility is almost deceptive, and he generated several scoring chances on his own simply with his speed and acceleration; by the time the defenders realized what was going on, he had closed the gap and stolen the puck.
He had a three-point night, never seemed to be out of position, and always seemed to find ways to create turnovers and turn on the jets to create separation between himself and the pursuing defenders. His skating alone should make him an NHLer.
G TYLER PARSONS
3rd-ranked North American goaltender by Central Scouting
You wouldn’t think the goaltender on the winning side in a 9-1 game would merit a lot of praise, but the Wheat Kings opened things up a lot in the second period and Parsons faced a ton of shots through traffic. He allowed just a single goal in the 47:38 that he played, and that one was a second-chance opportunity on a Brandon power-play.
Parsons tracked pucks well, reacted really well, and made 24 saves.
I drove up with fellow Gauntlet alumnus and The Hockey Writers staffer Derek Neumeier, but we randomly ended up sitting next to Cult of Hockey’s Bruce McCurdy. Bruce obviously looks at things from an Edmonton Oilers perspective and was really keying in on Tkachuk and Juolevi. You can check out Bruce’s notes on the evening over at his neck of the woods!