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Does Knights’ new dynamic duo have what it takes?

With Matthew Tkachuk seemingly not on his way back from Calgary any time soon, and Mitch Marner taking up permanent residence in Toronto, the big guns on the London Knights this season are Max Jones and Cliff Pu. Both drafted in June, taken by the Anaheim Ducks in the first round and the Buffalo Sabres in the third round respectively, Jones and Pu have returned to London to make the most of this OHL season.

Jones and Pu are flourishing in their new roles, playing together on London’s first line along with Carolina Hurricanes prospect and Knights’ import draft pick Janne Kuokkanen.

We got a preview of how well these two played together last season, but it seems that top minutes and the addition of Kuokkanen to round out their line has really taken this duo to the next level. Pu currently has 19 points (8 goals, 11 assists) in 11 games, while Jones has 16 points (5 goals, 11 assists) in just eight games played.

Pu seems particularly focused on making the most of this chance. He’s been shooting the puck at every opportunity, and seems set on far outstripping his 31-point campaign from last season. You have to think that the Buffalo Sabres are pleased to see this kind of development coming from what could very well turn out to be a third-round steal.

Jones, on his end, is becoming one of the most dominant forwards in the OHL. He plays an aggressive game, still going hard to the net as he’s fond of doing, and he’s improved his skating since last season. He’s also leading the rush more often.

One thing that might stop them from being the best duo in the OHL this season is whether Jones can get a much-needed handle on the physical side of his play. Over the last year, he’s slowly built himself a reputation as a dirty player, something that the Anaheim Ducks aren’t likely to be happy with.

From Saturday:

 

Jones is currently facing a potential suspension, one made more likely by the fact that he does have a history.

The situation looks even worse when you consider that he had a 10-minute misconduct during the third period Friday night in London’s game against the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Pu tied the game not long after Jones’s penalty was over, and the Knights arguably might’ve had a shot at winning had they had ten extra minutes of one of their top offensive players.

The Ducks sent Jones back to the OHL to learn, and frankly, learning to play with an edge — without throwing suspension-worthy hits — should be his top priority. Everyone who has seen the Knights play knows that Jones has high-level offensive talent. What’s still up in the air is whether he can fuse that strong offensive game with his preferred physical style, while staying on the correct side of what kind of physical play is allowed and what isn’t.

Jones doesn’t currently see anything wrong with his style of play.

““I’m going to play my game,” he told Ryan Pyette of the London Free Press after the game against Sarnia Friday night. “Keep playing it the way I always do. It has brought me this far.”

He’s been getting quite a bit of opportunity, seeing time on both the power play and the penalty kill, and it’s clear that the Knights want him to step up and be a veteran presence. He’s got the potential to be a star in London this season, and more than that, a leader.

He just needs to remember that you can’t lead if you’re serving a suspension in the press box.

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