Mark Hunter leaves London Knights, becomes Toronto Maple Leafs' director of player personnel

During the Hunter era the Knights won three OHL championships and one Memorial Cup (Terry Wilson, OHL Images)
During the Hunter era the Knights won three OHL championships and one Memorial Cup (Terry Wilson, OHL Images)

Plan the parade? It's easy to forget the state the London Knights were once in but it bears revisiting on the occasion of Mark Hunter taking leave to become the director of player personnel of Toronto Maple Leafs.

On an OHL scale, the Knights had a Leafs-like mien up until the early 2000s — a big-city team that had typically overpromised and underdelivered. Before the Hunters arrived, the Knights had never won a championship in more than 30 seasons' despite being smack-dab in the middle of a hockey hotbed in southwestern Ontario. That's all changed, obviously.

The Knights' consistent — persistent? — success for more than a decade running owes substantially to Mark Hunter hitting the hockey hustings in search of capable players. It's not just about the profitability, although that helps a lot.

It's one thing for a team to be well-heeled; it's another for a team's GM to be a "scouting freak" who gets out there in order to get a good idea of what the draft board actually looks like. London has had more than its share of name-brand NHL prospects, but as the saying goes, championships are won by the bottom half of the roster. Finding the right fit for those spots is why London has tallied at least 100 points in eight of the last 11 seasons, while winning three OHL titles (2005, '11 and '12) and one Memorial Cup (also '05).

There is less parity in junior hockey, but scouting arguably contains more variables since potential players are less emotionally and physically mature. One can only imagine what Hunter might do now that his focus will be on projecting slightly older players' ceilings for pro hockey. Take it from the people who covered his career with the Knights:

As far as the Knights are concerned, it's probably a good time for a transition at the top. The current team which is ninth in the Western Conference with a .400 point percentage after 10 games is an amalgam of newcomers such as 16-year-old defenceman Victor Mete and high NHL picks such as Arizona Coyotes first-rounder Max Domi and Montreal Canadiens first-rounder Michael McCarron. The line of succession in the front office already exists, with assistant coach Dylan Hunter and assistant GM Rob Simpson, et al.

Hunter's hiring would appear to jibe with the Leafs hiring Kyle Dubas away from the Sault. Ste. Marie Greyhounds in July to be their assistant GM.

Meantime, as Josh Brown notes, with Hunter, Dubas as assistant GM and former Kitchener Rangers head man Steve Spott as an assistant coach, that is three former Ontario league general managers who are now part of the Leafs organization.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.


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