Last Saturday, I had the opportunity to watch the London Knights extend their epic win streak to 23 games--a streak that was subsequently snapped at 24 on Tuesday night, one shy of a CHL record--with a 4-2 victory over the Plymouth Whalers.
Both teams were skating with far from complete rosters thanks to the World Junior tournament. London was without defensemen Olli Maatta and Scott Harrington, forcing them to skate some forwards at defense, while Plymouth was without Ryan Hartman and Rickard Rakell, and were forced to skate some defensemen at forward.
Plymouth obviously had a ton of respect for the speed and skill London has up front. The Whalers didn't apply anything even resembling a forecheck for most of the game, leading to a fairly quiet first half of the game. Tom Wilson got Plymouth on the board first with an amazing shift--seriously, Canada is good enough to win WJC gold regardless, but he should have been on that team--where he fired a laser off the crossbar, got the puck back, and buried a goal. But Plymouth's goal just seemed to poke the bear awake. London responded back with goals on each of the next two shifts, and a third before the second intermission.
London added a very soft fourth goal and the game seemed well in hand, until Plymouth scored a goal with just under two minutes left, and then Garrett Meurs earned a penalty shot with about a minute left. Unfortunately, Meurs cracked his stick while being taken down on a breakaway, and didn't realize it until he went to deke to his backhand on the penalty shot, and looked down to see he was playing with a ringette stick. That was the last time Plymouth would threaten and London came away with the 4-2 victory.
The best player on the ice all night was London's top line center Seth Griffith. He was electric all night. It looks like Boston got a steal picking him in the 5th round a couple years ago. Playing on Griffith's wing was former Nebraska-Omaha commit Alex Broadhurst, who also had a nice game. The speed and skill he brings to that line makes them nearly impossible to defend.
But the real attraction were the three players on London's team that all look pretty likely to go in the top 50 picks of this year's NHL Draft: Nikita Zadorov, Max Domi, and Bo Horvat.
Zadorov is a 6'5" defenseman that was among the last cut from Russia's World Juniors team. I really liked the way he played. Combine his skating with his long reach and it's nearly impossible for an attacking player to get around him. His vision and passing was pretty good. His shot didn't impress me much. But there's plenty of potential there for any team to work with. I think he'll end up going in the top half of the first round.
Domi got off to a bit of a slow start, but he scored a highlight reel on London's second goal where he came out of the corner and fired a quick backhander for a goal. What I like about him is that he's got soft hands and skill to go with them, but he's got the same type of bowling ball frame like his dad had that allows him to go into the corners and tough areas of the ice and hold his own despite not being very big. I'd be looking at him in the mid-to-late first round of the draft.
Bo Horvat had a relatively quiet night offensively, centering London's second line, but I thought he did a lot of the little things pretty well. He was great on face-offs, and overall played a pretty responsible game. A solid pick anywhere on the second day of the draft.