Hockey

A successful season cut short

It was a season cut short due to COVID-19, but the London Knights finished first in the Western Conference in 2019-2020 and enjoyed many highlights along the way.

The London Knights wrapped up a 92-point season that landed them atop the Western Conference for the second consecutive year. They boasted a well-rounded squad both up front and on the back end, had an especially strong second half – riding 10 straight wins on their way to the top – and registered 40 wins, a familiar feat for the dominant club. Between rookie records, coaching accolades, a well-represented Team Canada group, and a Patrick Kane jersey retirement night, the Knights had a lot to celebrate this year.

Brochu emerges as top netminder
Straight out of Junior C, to say that Brett Brochu’s first year in net for the Knights was a good one is an understatement. The netminder capped off a record-breaking season by winning the F. W. ‘Dinty’ Moore Trophy for the lowest rookie goals-against average at 2.40. In the 42 games Brochu suited up for, he posted one of the league’s winningest records at 32-6-0-0 and finished with the league’s third-highest save percentage at .919.

Brochu’s 32 wins also set a new record for the most victories by a 16 or 17-year-old first-year goaltender in OHL history. At the end of the season, he said he attributed much of his success to patience and confidence, but also to the deep team in front of him and a guiding hand in fellow netminder Dylan Myskiw, an overage pickup early in the season.

Team Canada’s gold medalists turn on the jets
It was Connor McMichael’s strongest season yet, and he impressed both at the OHL and international levels. The Washington Capitals first rounder finished out his third year in London with 102 points (in just 52 games), including finishing third in the OHL in goals scored with 47.

McMichael also brought home a gold medal with Team Canada at the World Junior Championships alongside teammate Liam Foudy. In just 48 games, Foudy matched his previous best 68-point total – half of which came over an 18-game point streak that started on Jan. 26 and concluded with the season’s abrupt end. The fourth-year veteran also got a taste of the NHL when the Columbus Blue Jackets called him up on an emergency basis for two games on the big stage during which he earned an assist.

Applause for the Hunters
Another big year for coach Dale Hunter came with another milestone. The Knights’ bench boss became the third coach in OHL history to earn 800 career wins this past January. Along with brother Mark, the Knights’ general manager, Dale also led Team Canada from behind the bench to win the country’s 18th gold medal at the World Juniors. And, of course, he led his Knights to a 40-win season and a first-place finish in the West.

A pair of point-producing defencemen
The Knights were strong on all fronts this season, but the high-charting efforts of Ryan Merkley and Alec Regula deserve to be highlighted. Regula, a 6-foot-4 Chicago Blackhawks prospect, amassed 27 goals – the league-highest among defenceman and most by a Knights blueliner since 2001-02.

The elite playmaking abilities of San Jose Sharks pick Ryan Merkley, a new addition to the London lineup this season, helped round out one of the strongest defensive corps in the league. The fourth year OHLer boasted a career best 76 points, good for second among all OHL blue liners.

Evangelista makes a statement
Another great Knights story in 2019-2020 was the play of Luke Evangelista, who followed up a scoreless 27-game rookie campaign last year to explode for 61 points in 62 games this season. The sophomore skater found the scoresheet often, tallying 23 goals – a steep jump and a pretty good feat when you’re in the NHL Draft spotlight. Following his breakout year, NHL Central Scouting listed him 39th among all eligible North American players.

www.londonknights.com

By Sarah Jean Maher and photo by Matt Hiscox Photography