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Congratulations – London Knights 2012 Draft Class!

June 25, 2012

Congratulations to the NHL Draft Class of 2012!  Leading the CHL with 6 picks over the 7 rounds, the London Knights continue to churn out pro hockey prospects.  From Rick Nash, Patrick Kane and John Tavares to Robbie Schremp and Max Spiridonov, there are a considerable number of former London Knights spread through pro leagues across the world (see follow-up post for more details on who and where).

This past weekend, however, belongs to our latest 6 draftees:

1.  Olli Maatta, D, 1st rd, 22nd – Pittsburgh Penguins (CS 8th)

The slick, puck-moving defenceman from Finland joins his teammate Scott Harrington (2011, 2nd rd, 54th) in the Penguins system. Maatta was ranked in the first round, anywhere between the 8th and 30th picks, so while this pick wasn’t off the board, Pittsburgh gets good value here.

As Knights fans are well aware, after a settling in period, Olli made great strides in showing why the Hunters traded up to get him at the #1 pick in the CHL Import Draft. He also ran into injury trouble at the World Junior Championships, earning a concussion courtesy of Team Canada’s Boone Jenner. Calm under pressure, he makes good decisions with the puck, leading to a good first pass out of the zone.  Maatta’s offensive skills began to surface during the latter half of the season and he was terrific during London’s Memorial Cup run.

Olli’s options for next season are wide open. He could surprise and make the Pens out of camp or, as an import, be sent to the AHL or head back to Finland; but reports state that he expects to stay in London next season, which is great news for the Knights who are hoping for another lengthy playoff run.

2. Chris Tierney, C, 2nd rd, 55th – San Jose Sharks (CS 118th)

The former 2010 1st rd OHL draftee joins former Knight and Calgary Flame, Matt Pelech in the Sharks organization. While his draft stock sank during the year, the playoffs certainly brought it back up. After a tough rookie season in which Tierney struggled to find a niche, Chris found his way on a line with fellow 2012 draft prospect Josh Anderson and 2013 prospect Bo Horvat. A hard-working, energy line – Tierney and his mates were one of the best in the 2012 playoffs for the OHL Champion Knights, grinding through opponents and chipping in with some offence.  Expect Tierney to need some seasoning back with the Knights, perhaps in an expanded role where he could showcase his offensive skills.

 3. Josh Anderson, RW, 4th rd, 95th – Columbus Blue Jackets (CS 57th)

Josh went undrafted in the OHL and made an immediate impression as a walk-on early in the season. He joins former Knights Rick Nash and Steve Mason.

Anderson does a little of everything. His improved draft stock is due to a solid rookie season as well as a strong playoff.  With decent wheels, grit and the ability to chip in with offence, he’s an all-around type. From undrafted walk-on to 4th rd pick in his draft year, Josh is a hard worker that also expects to be back with the Knights.

4. Andreas Athanasiou, C, 4th rd, 110th – Detroit Red Wings (CS 40th)

Andreas is said to be the fastest man in the draft, with some pretty fancy moves to go along with it. He joins former Knight Kyle Quincey, who is on his second go-around with the Wings. An early choice to go in the first round, Athanasiou dropped over the year as he found it difficult to find minutes, especially once the Knights picked up veteran help for the playoff run.

While the speed is evident and there are definitely flashes of skill, the work ethic and sense are sometimes wanting. The good news is that he made good use of his limited minutes during the Knights’ playoff run, minimizing his turnovers and using his speed to back-check. He will be given every chance to show his skills as a top 6 scoring forward with the departure of Vladislav Namestnikov, Gregg McKegg and Austin Watson.

5. Seth Griffith, C, 5th rd, 131st – Boston Bruins

Despite a 62 point season in his draft year (2011), Seth went undrafted – astounding to Knights fans.  Boston rewarded his 45 goal season by drafting him in the 5th rd. He will join 2011 2nd rd pick, Jared Knight in the Bruins system.

A speedy scoring threat, Griffith is known for his timely scoring, leading the team in both goals and points. On a line with Namestnikov for most of the past two years, he’s up for a new linemate, but with his skillset and the remaining surrounding cast, don’t expect his numbers to drop. Boston gets a steal with this pick.

6. Ryan Rupert, C, 6th rd, 157th – Toronto Maple Leafs

The Leafs have been looking for truculence and grit since Brian Burke took over and here it is. While small in stature, Rupert has shown all year that not only can he stand toe-to-toe with anyone, he can get under the skin of the best.  Ask Jonathan Huberdeau, who was ready to rip the ears off him by the end of their Memorial Cup game. Add to that a good measure of skill that translated into 48 pt season and you have a solid energy line guy.

He’ll get the lay of the land from former 7th overall pick, Nazem Kadri, who is expected to make the big team for good next year. The Leafs are also expected to invite his twin brother, Matt, to prospect camp. Another year with the Knights as a second liner and dependable penalty killer (when he’s not in the box himself – 120 PIMs) will only improve Rupert’s stock. As a 6th rd pick, you’re not looking for sure-fire NHL-er, maybe not even sure-fire solid pro, but you know that Rupert is going to accept the challenge.

One big name left off the draft lists again was OHL and CHL Goalie of the Year, Michael Houser. While this was widely predicted in many circles, it leaves this blogger and Knights fan a little sour.  The reasons provided are solid and come from widely respected sources (i.e. Terry Doyle of @loosepucks – loosepucks.com,  Brandon Sudeyko @intheoradio – intheoradio.com), I feel like House got a raw deal.  I know he’s a risk at his age now (I feel even older when a 20 yr-old is considered old) and that he now can take his pick of the offers that will hopefully now come his way, but it still stinks. We’ll welcome you back in London, but I’m hoping you catch on somewhere that needs a solid goalie.

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