With the OHL season beginning Thursday, BTN is taking an early look at each team in reverse order of last season's standings.
In 2011-12 — 49-18-0-1, 99 points; first in Western Conference. Won OHL championship 4-1 over Niagara IceDogs, MasterCard Memorial Cup runner-up.
Final Dynamic Dozen ranking — first OHL, fourth CHL.
Drafted — D Olli Maatta (Pittsburgh Penguins, first round), D Scott Harrington (Pittsburgh, second), C Chris Tierney (San Jose Sharks, second), LW Josh Anderson (Columbus Blue Jackets, fourth), RW Seth Griffith (Boston Bruins, fifth), C Ryan Rupert (Toronto Maple Leafs, sixth), C Alex Broadhurst (Chicago Blackhawks, seventh, selected from USHL's Green Bay Gamblers).
Draft watch — C Max Domi is a projected first-round pick who shone at last month's Memorial of Ivan Hlinka under-18 tournament; LW Bo Horvat (6-foot, 203) and D Nikita Zadorov (6-5, 228) already have NHL size at age 17.
1. How will they replace the veteran scoring which has moved on to bigger and brighter things?
London lost four high-drafted forwards off its near-Memorial Cup championship team in the form of departed Austin Watson, Jared Knight, Greg McKegg and Tampa Bay Lightning first-rounder Vladislav Namestnikov. Speedy but often scratched forward Andreas Athanasiou, a 22-goal scorer, is also now with the Barrie Colts. As teams coming off a championship go, though, the Knights remain well-stocked. Domi is expected to grow into an expanded role in the offence after getting 49 points to lead all 16-year-olds last season. London also brought in Broadhurst as a shifty pivot who may fill Namestnikov's role as 45-goal scorer Griffith's setup guy. London also has a cadre of 18-year-olds in Anderson, Tierney and twin linemates Ryan and Matt Rupert who probably packed two seasons' experience into one last season.
As for an interruption in continuity with Dale Hunter taking the clipboard back from brother Mark Hunter, one knows better than to ask. Chemistry seldom appears to be a problem in London, since contending nearly every year is obvious motivation to mesh.
2. What is the biggest hole to fill?
Many would look to the net, since Florida Panthers free-agent signing Michael Houser was named the league's outstanding player after being goalie of record in 64 of London's 67 overall wins last season. It's arguable finding a substitute for the long arm of the law that was 6-foot-7 captain Jarred Tinordi could be just as tough. Tinordi and Harrington, perhaps junior hockey's most astute defender, were a tough pair to crack, to put it mildly. Zadorov offers similar physical specs but there is a difference between a 17-year-old newbie and an experienced player.
This could be nitpicking. London has the two signed Penguins draft picks in Harrington and Maatta, plus three veterans on defence with Kevin Raine, Tommy Hughes and the re-converted Tyler Ferry.
3. How much scrutiny will their new goalie tandem face?
Even Houser might have had trouble following Houser; he became that talismanic last season. London seems to fomenting some healthy competition between overage Kevin Bailie and 18-year-old Jake Patterson (or Jacob Two T's, as he's known to OHL fans whose mums read those Mordecai Richler books to them during childhood; Saginaw's Jake Paterson has just the one). An overage goalie typically not only has to win the starting job outright but also block out concerns the team might opt to use the OA slot to shore up defence or forward. Bailie's strong second half was a good indicator he can perform well in London, but any sign of a drop-off might stoke some clamour for change.
Overall, London will be strong, although this group might be year away from its peak. That championship run raised expectations, but they certainly made a lot of breaks for themselves, especially with their shot-blocking strategy. Sometimes that randomness can turn in spite of everyone's efforts.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.