'Average' label fits Knights

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:26 PM ET

The Ontario Hockey League season has barely broken a sweat but we’re already getting a good picture of what the London Knights are all about.

None of what is presented is particularly surprising.

Right now, the Knights are an average team and unless they make significant additions, average is what they will remain.

That’s not unusual in junior hockey. It’s rare that every team doesn’t suffer at the least, an average year occasionally.

But average doesn’t wash with the fans or Knights’ management.

That’s why most everyone knows that’s not how it’s going to go down.

Knights’ general manager Mark Hunter will swing a deal or two in an effort to get an edge.

His problem is the need to make significant changes for this team to challenge for a Western Conference championship. A few changes though might put the Knights a notch or so above the middle of the pack.

The early-season assessment has proven to be a lot like the preseason preview.

The Knights are having trouble scoring, something most everyone predicted.

Jared Knight has been his usual gritty, gutsy self and will score a ton because he works so hard.

The defence was earmarked as their strong suit and while there’s plenty of growing to do, it has been as advertised.

Scott Harrington is one of the best young blue-liners in the league.

Jarred Tinordi has a lot to learn but his wingspan is all-engulfing and as a defender he will dominate. Michael D’Orazio gives the Knights what’s expected of an over-age defenceman, plenty of experience and ice time. Michael Moffat has been surprisingly good for a free agent.

Goaltending was a question mark going into the season. So far, there’s no question about Michael Houser. The second-year netminder has yanked the No. 1 job into his corner and has been terrific.

This will be a team that promises to provide anyone associated with it with a roller-coaster ride on a game-by-game basis.

Heck, they may provide that ride on a period-by-period basis. Check out Saturday’s game in Windsor when the Knights took a 4-0 lead and then had to win the game against the Spitfires in a shootout.

If early season play is a measuring stick, it looks as if Kitchener, Saginaw and Owen Sound are at one level with the on-paper talent of the Guelph Storm also capable of joining them.

Everyone else is operating somewhere on a lower floor.

Hunter has been working the phones trying to find something that will help his club move up to that other level.

But what Hunter needs is what many other teams are looking for and that’s an elite level scorer and they will only be pried loose if a team is willing to pay a steep price.

It may be a price that the Knights would be willing to pay during a year they think they can win.

Will they pay the same price in a year when their team needs upgrades in several areas?

There’s no guarantee that a player of that ilk is even available.

You’ll get a better idea of what the Knights are planning to do when over-ager Phil Varone comes back from a knee injury.

Right now that looks to still be about a week or 10 days away even though Varone is skating in practice.

The Knights will have four over-agers and will move one of them quickly. They may be able to package one of them along with some of their surplus defence and a draft choice or two to fill some their needs.

It would give the Knights a fighting chance to move up a little in the Western Conference food chain.

morris.dallacosta@sunmedia.ca


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