Say what you will about Jim Benning, but when it comes to scouting, the dude puts in work. His fourth in-person viewing on this east coast road trip (that I’m aware of) came Friday, November 13th when the London Knights faced the Guelph Storm.
The London Knights boast three potential first round picks in Matthew Tkachuk (PCS pace 70%), Max Jones (PCS pace 20.7%), and Olli Juolevi (PCS pace 22.8%) as well as highly regarded Victor Mete (PCS pace 13%). Add in Mitch Marner (Toronto’s 4th overall pick from 2015) and Christian Dvorak (Arizona’s 2nd round pick from 2014), and you’ve got the OHL’s highest octane offense. Guelph on the other hand, is one of the weakest teams in the OHL, without any notable prospects. I wasn’t a surprised that they got crushed in this one, but I have to admit I didn’t expect the Knight to win 10-4.
Now, I try to focus on the 2016 draft eligible prospects in this series, rather that prospects belonging to other teams, especially the Leafs, but this Mitch Marner goal on the first shot of the game was pretty, so here you go.
The second goal of the game came 30 seconds later when Matthew Tkachuk, received a Marner pass in close to the net before flipping the puck to Dvorak for an easy one:
There weren’t many highlights for Guelph tonight, but undrafted 19-year-old Vladislav Barulin was one of them. Barulin is an OHL rookie this year, after playing in the MHL-B league last year. Given his age, and lack of production so far in the OHL (9 points in 18 games), he’s a PCS longshot (PCS pace 3%), but he did play relatively well in this one, so it’ll be interesting to see if he earns himself a development camp invite from an NHL team down the road.
Tkachuk earned his second point on the night on this Mitch Marner goal. We can see a bit of a trend developing here. Tkachuk is currently second in the OHL in scoring behind Alex Debrincat of the Erie Otters. Like Debrincat, Tkachuk’s scoring numbers are benefiting from playing with elite linemates who have no business playing in junior anymore:
Max Jones hit a number of the boxes for Benning in this game. He’s a big, bruising power forward, who goes hard to the net. Here is a Jones near goal, where he pops in a rebound off his foot. It was later ruled he kicked it in:
The next clip is textbook Max Jones. See him cruise through the neutral zone with ease, fire off a shot, then completely layout the Guelph defender. This is the stuff that leads to Jones being ranked higher than players like Tkachuk and Debrincat on some scouting lists. In Vancouver we call that a murder, and I expect it made a pretty strong impression with Jim Benning:
Here’s Jones getting on the scoreboard for the first time this night Kole Sherwood pops home a rebound off a Max Jones shot:
Similarly, we see Jones enter the offensive zone, use his high-end acceleration to create space for himself to get a high quality shot off, enabling JJ Piccinich to pop in an easy rebound:
Tkachuk got his first goal, and fourth point of the night on this goal scorer’s goal. After receiving an absolutely filthy pass from Marner, Tkachuk out-waits the Guelph goaltender before burying the puck in the back of the net:
To round things out here is some textbook Max Jones from late in the 3rd period. The Storm’s CJ Garcia absolutely lays out the Knights Cliff Pu. Jones goes absolutely nuts, nailing Garcia in a prone position before pummeling him:
Key takeaways from Benning’s Eyes
The two highest profile players, Matthew Tkachuk and Max Jones, didn’t disappoint in this one. The Dvorak, Marner, Tkachuk line was outstanding in this one, with the trio combining for 13 points. While Tkachuk’s clearly possesses elite offensive ability in his own right, it’s clear that his linemates have helped him reach his lofty offensive totals so far this year (34 points in his first 18 games).
On the other hand, according to chlstats.com, Jones most common linemates this year have been Aaron Berisha and Kole Sherwood, both of which have so far gone undrafted. In this one, Jones was clearly generating the offense for his line, managing two assists, to bring his total points for the season to 15 in 15 games played. He also added 12 penalty minutes on two separate fights. All and all, Jones showed excellent offensive talents to go along with a real nasty streak. I’m sure Benning liked to see Jones come to his teammates aid, but the assault on Garcia in a prone position was ugly and indicative of the level of discipline that saw Jones earn 189 penalty minutes in only 38 games with the US Development Program last year.
BEFTSG Player of the Game
He’s skilled. He goes hard to the net. He’s definitely hard to play against. He might even be a little insane. Max Jones is everything the Benning eye’s could ask for.