Four London Knights selected in 2023 NHL Entry Draft

It started in round one with Oliver Bonk and Easton Cowan.

Then came Denver Barkey and Jacob Julien, and before the fifth round was over, four London Knights players had been selected in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft.

Bonk and Barkey both ended up with the Philadelphia Flyers. Julien went to the Winnipeg Jets and Cowan pulled on a blue and white sweater that looked very familiar to jerseys he wore growing up.

“My uncle and my family members would take the train down to games,” Cowan said. “It was pretty special to put on the blue and white and it’s a moment I’ll never forget.”

Cowan became the fourth Knight chosen in the first round by the Maple Leafs joining Mitch Marner in 2016, Nazem Kadri in 2009 and Darryl Sittler in 1970.

Cowan is now out to find the kind of success that trio has enjoyed.

“I just love playing the game and I want to win,” stated Cowan. “Understanding the (OHL) better and getting help from my coaches and my teammates and my family. I felt I got better throughout the year and just want to be a huge factor for the team.”

Bonk is now one step closer to following his father into the National Hockey League.

Radek Bonk played 14 seasons for the Ottawa Senators, the Montreal Canadiens and Nashville where this year’s draft took place.

“For this draft I think he was more stressed out than me,” laughed Bonk. “But he gave me a lot of support over this season and during the draft.”

Bonk was named to the Canadian Hockey League’s All-Rookie team for 2022-23 and said that trusting the process in London was a big key.

“It’s a little cliche but when you are in London that’s what you have to do,” admitted Bonk. “Dale and Mark (Hunter) have plans for you and I gained their confidence going into the season and it worked out really well.”

Bonk played in the Top Prospects game with Barkey who he could now team up with in the future on the Flyers.

Barkey says the experience of draft day is hard to put into words.

“To hear your name called is just a childhood dream come true. Words can’t really explain it. It’s just surreal,” described Barkey.

But like his three teammates know, being drafted is just the start.

“It’s a long road to the National Hockey League,” said Barkey. “It’s not easy. It’s the best league in the world so I’m just trying to enjoy the moment and look back on all of the hockey memories I’ve had and I’m excited for the rest of the path of my hockey career.”

Barkey was third in Knights scoring with 22 goals and 59 points in the 2022-23 regular season and then added 24 points in 20 playoff games.

Knights forward Jacob Julien began the season with the London Nationals and his start helped Julien to become a full-time Knight by early December. Fast forward a little over six months and Julien is set to board a flight to Winnipeg to attend his first NHL development camp as a Jets prospect. It’s been a steep climb for a guy who started the year with a full course load in engineering at Western University until he decided to, “give professional hockey a shot.”

Along with Bonk, Cowan, Barkey and Julien there were three London draft picks chosen through the seven rounds of the draft.

Kasper Haltunen was the fourth player selected on day two as he went to the San Jose Sharks. Halttunen was the Knights top Import Draft pick in 2022. He spent last year in Finland where he captained the national Under-18 team.

The Arizona Coyotes made forward Jonathan Castagna a third rounder 34 selections later. Castagna is a centre who played for the Toronto Marlboros and St. Andrew’s College this past year. He is set to play at Cornell in 2023-24. Castagna was London’s eighth round pick in 2021.

Finally defenceman Arem Minnetian was drafted in the fourth round by the Dallas Stars. in the seventh round by the Knights in 2021. Minnetian is from New Jersey and is due to go to Boston College next season.

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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