When Bo Horvat was introduced to the media as the London Knights’ top pick from the 2011 OHL draft in late August, you could tell the then-16-year-old from rural Ontario wasn’t used to the spotlight.
He wasn’t acclimatized to being a pseudo-celebrity in a junior hockey hotbed.
Something else was off, too.
“I just knew we were going to be great friends if he came here,” Horvat said last week about Ian Jenkins.
Jenkins, who was selected by London 29th overall and 20 spots after Horvat, died May 23, 2011.
Horvat decided to pay homage to Jenkins’ No. 35 by switching the digits around. His No. 53 has already become one of the more recognizable numbers on London’s roster.
“I wanted to remember him forever,” Horvat said.
Jenkins fell off the bed of a slow-moving pickup truck on May 19 – just 12 days after the Knights took him in the second round. The Ypsilanti, Mi., native had seven hours of brain surgery at the University of Michigan Hospital before passing away four days after the accident.
The two 1995-born prospects had become friends through hockey, competing against each other in various tournaments from the peewee level onwards.
“He’ll be in our thoughts,” said starting goaltender and likely mentor to Jenkins, Michael Houser. “Hopefully, we can win the Memorial Cup for him.”
Houser, 19, has “RIP Ian Jenkins” imprinted on the back of his helmet. Backup goalie Jake Patterson wears No. 35, also in remembrance of Jenkins.