Markus Phillips has one OHL championship ring and 57 games of major junior playoff experience.
That’s what made the overage defenceman so attractive to the Knights and why London shipped three draft picks Wednesday (2023 2nd round from Hamilton, 2021 3rd round from Barrie and London’s 2021 4th round selection) get him from Guelph Wednesday.
“He won last year and it’s nice to be a part of guys who know the process and know what it takes,” Knights GM Mark Hunter said. “He’s got skill and he can play both ends of the ice. He’s a multi-dimensional defenceman and I think he can do both for us.
“He has good pedigree and we’ll go from there.”
Phillips, originally an Owen Sound first-round selection, played for Canada’s world junior team last year in Vancouver and was a fourth-round pick of the L.A. Kings in the 2017 NHL draft.
He played five games for Los Angeles’s American league affiliate, the Ontario Reign, and 20 more for the ECHL’s Fort Wayne Komets (six assists) this season before being sent back to Guelph.
Storm GM/coach George Burnett acquired him from the Attack a year ago in a massive roster overhaul that helped Guelph win its first league crown with three straight playoff series comebacks, including overcoming an 0-3 hole in the second round against the Knights.
“He’s an all-star calibre elite defenceman,” Burnett said. “Under the circumstances, we would’ve been very happy to have him back with us. We brought Josh Wainman in (from Hamilton) earlier this year. He’s been terrific and a provided real good leadership on and off the ice.
“It wasn’t an easy decision to see Markus go down the road to a team we’re going to see a lot of in the second half. We didn’t know until late that he would be available and he’ll be a terrific player for (London). It was a tough circumstance but he needed to get playing and it was the right decision to make.”
The 20-year-old Phillips bolsters a London blue-line that includes veteran Alec Regula, NHL first-rounder Ryan Merkley, Rangers prospect Hunter Skinner and NHL prospect Kirill Steklov.
The Knights already have three overagers, but Phillips’s arrival will likely spell the end of forward Cole Tymkin’s four-year tenure with the Knights.
The winger is currently serving an eight-game suspension for a head check on Kitchener’s Isaac Langdon. After scoring 22 times last season, he has six goals and 12 points in 33 games this year.
“We’ll be trying to move Cole here and give him a spot to play,” Hunter said.
It will have to be done in a hurry. The OHL’s trade deadline for 20-year-olds is Thursday at noon.
The Knights would also like more goals in their lineup, which means they are currently in the hunt for a high-scoring forward. Sarnia overager Sean Josling and Niagara’s Akil Thomas, the Canadian world junior hero, would be nice additions.
But the question always comes down to cost and London is once again reluctant to move its younger prospects.
“We put a lot of time into the development of these young men,” Hunter said. “I just look at it that we’re looking at things, but at the end of the day, we made a deal for picks here (for Phillips). I like our team. We missed a lot of players over the break and they held the fort. Now, we have a chance to get our players back and win some more games.”
The player capable of making the biggest difference if moved, of course, is Guelph goaltender Nico Daws. He could help a contending team get over the top, but Burnett was non-committal about the world junior stopper’s availability.
“Right now, we’re not anticipating any more moves other than what’s been done so far,” Burnett said. “We’re trying to be competitive. We’re probably a little further ahead than most had us pegged. It’s been fun to see some wins. On our side (in the Western Conference), you’re two weeks from being at the bottom of the conference and two from being at the top. I’m hoping we’re a competitive, playoff-bound team.
“There’s not a lot of separation. I’m guessing after the deadline, there will be a little more. I’m sure there are some teams adding. We’re not adding. We’re not going to be adding a number of older players to our group as we did a year ago.”
London gets: Overage D Markus Phillips from Guelph.
London gives up: 3 draft picks (2nd round from Hamilton, 2023, 3rd round from Barrie 2021, 4th round from London 2021) to the Storm