Building a Contender

An examination of how the 2023-24 London Monarchs came to be.
by Michael Oram | November 7, 2023, 1:48 PM ET

Teams take many paths to the pinnacle of their sport. Some build through scouting and developing young talent. Others haggle and trade their way to the top. While others still negotiate all the way to the top spending large sums of cash on free agents. No single path is the right or wrong and most teams will end up borrowing from each path to create their winning, or at least contending, concoction.

The London Monarchs have paved their own path to emerge as one of the league’s top contenders for this season. A combination of skill, patience, negotiation, and some dumb luck (they did inherit Alexander Ovechkin) have all been used to build this year’s team.

This is how the 2023-24 London Monarchs came to be.

When the season opens the Monarchs will have 22 players on their active roster including 12 forwards, eight defensemen, and two goaltenders.

Only three of these players, or 14 percent of the roster, were drafted by the London Monarchs. These are Sebastian Aho who was drafted 39th overall in the second round of the 2015 draft, Artturi Lehkonen another second round pick at 49th overall in 2013, and Jordan Binnington (83rd overall in 2011) who was London’s first ever draft pick after relocating from Oslo. There are two original Monarchs on the roster, however, only one has remained with the organization for his entire career. Alexander Ovechkin was a member of the Oslo Vikings prior to their relocation to London and has only ever played for the Oslo/London franchise. The other original Monarch was traded away by the team and spent ten seasons in Edmonton, Calgary, and Fredericton before returning to London as a free agent. Blake Wheeler is one of six free agent signings on the Monarchs roster accounting for 27 percent of all players. The other signings include the over $140 million mega deal given to John Tavares in 2023. The other signings, all from 2023, include Ryan Suter, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Trevor Van Riemsdyk, and goaltender Craig Anderson.

The remaining 12 players, or 55 percent of the roster, were traded for between 2016 and 2023. One of the biggest trades was the acquisition of Jack Eichel and Mark Stone in exchange for Braden Schneider, two first round picks, and a second-round pick. Other players acquired through trade include forwards Valeri Nichushkin, Matt Duchene, Jack Roslovic, Mason Marchment, and Mason Appleton. On the backend Aaron Ekblad was acquired last season along with Nick Bonino (who has since left the team via free agency) for Jake Bean, Oliver Wahlstrom, Jordan Harris, Mackie Samoskevich, and a first, second, and third round pick. The other defencemen acquired through trade are Noah Hanifin, Mackenzie Weegar, Adam Larsson, and Ben Hutton.

While 55 percent of the roster was traded for, this does not mean the team doesn’t rely on or use its draft picks. Instead, London has a history of leveraging their picks and prospects to turn them from future potential to current day talent. In the ten trades made to acquire the 12 players on the 2023-24 Monarchs roster, nine roster players* were shipped out in the deals versus 15 picks and prospects – two of the trades also involved cash heading out the door. Many of these trades also saw picks or prospects coming into London’s system that the team has leveraged in again in a number of the trades analysed here.

This reliance on trades doesn’t mean the team only focusses on the short-term. Of the 12 players traded for, eight have been with London for four or more seasons. Put another way 67 percent of the players on London’s roster acquired by trade have been with the club through multiple contracts.

London has been able to find a balance between long-term strategy and short-term roster enhancements. This has culminated in the current season where the team has a legitimate shot at competing for the Continental Cup. But no one should be surprised if they see the Monarchs involved in more big trades as the year moves forward and opportunities to improve their roster in the short and long term arise.

*Two of these nine players ended up on the GHA roster of the receiving team. One roster player, Jonathan Toews, was shipped out only days after being acquired by the Monarchs in another blockbuster deal that is not included here as no player from that deal remains on the 2023-24 London Monarchs roster.


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