It’s not about where you are drafted or even whether or not you are drafted.
The London Knights have had players prove that for decades.
Christian Dvorak was an eighth-round pick and after winning a Memorial Cup in London in 2016 is now entering his fifth season in the NHL.
Josh Anderson was never chosen in the OHL Priority Selection. He now has Dvorak as a teammate in Montreal.
Two of the top goalies in franchise history are Michael Houser and Tyler Parsons. Both were free agents.
The number one goalie in the Knights crease right now is Brett Brochu. He was a sixth-round pick in 2018.
You get the picture.
Following training camp scrimmages, two looks and the start of the pre-season, London’s OHL team has added three players to their 2021-22 roster.
Jacob Chantler and Abakar Kazbekov were both Under-18 Priority Selections and Nick Yearwood was chosen 299th overall in 2020 in a draft that had 300 picks total.
All three forwards made major impressions from the first whistle in August and will get an opportunity to play key roles as the Knights return after a year away during the COVID-19 pandemic.
No. 6 Jacob Chantler
Knights 1st round pick in 2018 U-18 Priority Selection
From a young age, Jacob Chantler had an up-close look at the London Knights. His family had season tickets and he went to game after game after game. The more he went, the more he began to wonder if he could go from watching the players in green and gold to being a player in green and gold.
“I don’t even remember skating out of the castle (and onto the ice at Budweiser Gardens). Everything was just kind of frozen,” Chantler said.
The dream had a very brief realization on Nov. 29, 2019. While playing with the London Nationals Chantler got the call to play for the Knights while they had a few guys away at World Junior Selection Camp. He showed well against Windsor and the plan was to have him play more games. A shoulder injury changed those plans.
“I separated my shoulder and had to rehab that, but it was a dream come true playing in that game.”
Now Chantler brings his skill, compete level, IQ and leadership qualities to a young roster where he will have a big job as one of only four forwards over the age of 18.
No. 15 Abakar Kazbekov
1st overall pick in the 2021 U-18 Priority Selection
Heading into the month of May in the OHL fans starved for major junior hockey in and around Ontario waited to see how the draft lottery would play out. The Sudbury Wolves nabbed the first overall pick. The Knights landed in familiar territory at number 16.
But that wasn’t the only draft lottery the league held. The U-18 Priority Selection lottery may not have had the same hype but it helped London to acquire a player they had been following for some time. The Knights won the lottery and used the first overall pick on Abakar Kazbekov, a highly skilled forward from Russia who had only arrived in North America partway into the 2019-20 season. Kazbekov ended that year with the Vaughan Kings but missed the deadline to be eligible for the 2020 OHL Priority Selection making him available a year later.
“He pushed (Vaughan) all the way to the finals before the shutdown,” said London associate general manager Rob Simpson. “He has tons of hockey sense and tons of playmaking ability.”
No. 43 Nick Yearwood
15th round pick in 2020 OHL Priority Selection
In anything, when you get your shot, you need to be ready to take advantage. That’s what Nick Yearwood did through three training camp scrimmages. He caught the eye of management and he got himself onto the pre-season roster.
“I went to camp wanting to show everything that I do best,” explained Yearwood. “I work hard. I would not be outworked … I tried to hit hard, shoot hard, do everything hard.”
Yearwood continued to make use of every opportunity. He earned a spot in the lineup for London’s second pre-season game in Sarnia and was part of a 6-3 win in which he was plus-two and scored a goal.
“I saw (Denver) Barkey driving through the middle and I tried to pass to him but it bounced back to me off the (defenceman) so I pulled the puck to the middle and saw an opening and took it.”
It was an example of some of the finish that young players on the Knights have been showing.
“This group is very skilled,” said Yearwood. “Every player can (play that way) and it’s fun to watch.”
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