Knights' Night: Marner makes Leafs; Tkachuk poised for spot

Mitch Marner has proven everything he needs to prove in London, and he’s now getting a chance to show he belongs in the big leagues.

The 19-year-old forward has made the Toronto Maple Leafs opening night roster, according to General Manager Lou Lamoriello.

Although bittersweet for Knights’ fans, watching Marner fulfill his childhood dream of putting on a Leafs’ jersey is a testament to the hard work and dedication he’s put into the game of hockey.

“It’s pretty special,” Marner told the National Post. “That was my goal coming back into it, to make it hard for them to send me back to London, and I felt that every day I just keep getting better here.”

Not only has Marner solidified a spot for the first nine games in Toronto, he was paired on the first line beside Tyler Bozak and James Van Riemsdyk at practice.

As for Matthew Tkachuk, his future is a little more uncertain. Flames head coach, Glen Gulutzan, said it isn’t “out of the realm” for Tkachuk to be playing on opening night, but his spot isn’t guaranteed.

“If I’m fortunate enough to play in game one, it’ll be an absolute dream come true,” Tkachuk told the Calgary Herald. “Obviously, just to be able to play my first NHL game in my first year against a rivalry team in their new building would be, like, really really cool.”

Whether Tkachuk makes the team or not, he’s had a fantastic training camp, tallying two goals and a shootout winner in four preseason games. He was skating on a line with Sam Bennett and Troy Brouwer at practice, two players who are all but locked up to be playing on opening night.

With Marner and Tkachuk likely out of London for the foreseeable future, the rest of the Knights roster looks to be set for the season.

And the veterans are picking right up where they left off.

Max Jones is back from Anaheim, and has picked up a goal and three helpers in his first two games. Defenseman Olli Juolevi has two points in his first two games, including a phenomenal goal against Windsor Oct. 7.

But with only three over-agers allowed on each OHL roster, something had to give. That something was C.J. Yakimowicz, who was traded to the Sudbury Wolves last week. Yakimowicz was an instrumental part of the Knights Memorial Cup run, and was part of one of the most effective checking lines in junior hockey last season.

Yakimowicz joins former Knights’ player Aiden Jamieson in Sudbury. The Knights got back forward Brady Pataki from the Wolves, as well as a third-round pick in 2018, and a sixth rounder in 2017.

A Knights team without Marner and Tkachuk is still competitive, and with the right chemistry, could make another run at an OHL championship.

But, there’s no other way to spin it: the 3-1-2 Knights can’t expect any more help in their quest for a repeat.