Minor Midget Record: 27-2-4 (1st Place)
Minor Midget Result: Won Alliance Championship over Waterloo in 4 games (OHL Cup Semi-Finalist)
Major Bantam Record: 19-7-6 (2nd Place)
Major Bantam Result: Lost in Alliance Championship to Cambridge in 4 games
After a stellar season that saw the London Jr. Knights reign as the top Ontario team for the majority of the season, the 2002 crop comes up with loads of talent and a shot at another Alliance championship.
The Minor Midget Jr. Knights were probably the best team in minor hockey last season. Even though they didn’t win the OHL Cup, the amount of talent that was on that team to go along with how well they played together made it a treat to watch them every single game. Led by Ryan Suzuki, the first overall pick in the OHL Draft, the Jr. Knights had a laundry list of guys who you will probably see playing in the OHL either this year or next. Names like Prueter, Burridge, Van Loon, Drewitt and Say are just some of the guys you could see in the OHL shortly.
The 2002 age group for the London Jr. Knights was also chalked full of talent last season. The team blitzed its way through the West division into the postseason, only to run into a tough Cambridge team in the finals. The Jr. Knights had a little bit of everything last year. Some size, some speed and some shutdown D. That trend should continue coming into the current season.
This season got off to an unfortunate start for the Jr. Knights as longtime coach Steve Benedetti left the team due to him being unable to committ the time neccessary for the team. Luckily, it looks as though brother Greg, who coached with Steve for the past few season, has come on board for the boys.
A roster that includes 11 returning players, the one name I heard over and over again last season was that of defenseman Sheldon Serraglio. Serraglio is confidently the top D in the Alliance this season and should be a top pick should he stay healthy. A very skilled defender, Serraglio has deceptive offensive tools at his disposal and is a key quarterback for the London powerplay.
Another player who stuck out for me at bantam was forward George Diaco. Diaco reminds me a lot of former Jr. Knight Eric Guest, although Diaco does show a lot more intensity and drive on the ice, always battling hard on the forecheck. Diaco will be joined up front by the likes of Jacob Chantler, Johnny Fitzgerald and Joey Studnicka, the last two being key pieces to the Jr. Knights physical game down low. London has also brought over Matson Micallef, an all-star himself last year, from the Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs.
Not to be overshadowed by Serraglio, Alexander Bikos is another key defender for the Jr. Knights. Tim Kerkhoff will once again be between the pipes and be the number one for London. He will be joined this season by Jackson Mailloux, who comes up from a very successful London AA team a year ago.
I said earlier this week that I believed Cambridge was the favourite to win the Alliance this year and I stick to that, But I do believe that London will be the top competition for that spot. A dangerous offense mixed in with a top notch defensive core and good goaltending could see London claiming their second straight Alliance championship.