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London Knights linemates making their marks as NHL rookies

The Toronto Maple Leafs' Mitch Marner, 16, scores a goal during the second period of a game against the Buffalo Sabres on Nov. 3.

Jeffrey T. Barnes/The Canadian Press

Forever linked by their junior hockey success, Matthew Tkachuk, Mitch Marner and Christian Dvorak keep tabs on each other's progress in their rookie NHL seasons.

The night of Nov. 3 had the former London Knights linemates working their phones on a group chat.

Tkachuk scored twice for the Calgary Flames, Marner twice for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Dvorak scored his first NHL goal for the Arizona Coyotes in wins for all three teams.

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"We all thought it was pretty funny we all had good nights on the same day," Dvorak told The Canadian Press from Phoenix.

Snapchat and group texting are their preferred modes of communication.

"I talk to them quite a bit," Marner said in Toronto. "I talk to Devo pretty much every day, Chucky I talk to once a week. Just talk about how everything's going and how they like it."

The trio dominated Ontario Hockey League scoring with a combined 121 goals in the 2015-16 regular season. Marner, Tkachuk and Dvorak ranked first to third respectively in postseason scoring en route to an OHL title.

Marner was the Memorial Cup's most valuable player and leading scorer with two goals and a dozen assists in four games.

Tkachuk scored twice and Dvorak once in London's 3-2 overtime win over the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in the Memorial Cup final. At the time, Tkachuk thought his overtime winner deflected off Dvorak's back.

"I think we'll be friends for a whole lifetime," Dvorak said. "It's a pretty special bond we have."

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The former Knights stars now see each other on opposite sides of the puck. The Flames host Dvorak's Coyotes on Wednesday and Marner's Leafs on Nov. 30.

"It'll be cool to play against them," Tkachuk said. "Obviously they're both on really good, young up-and-coming teams. Their teams are kind of similar to us."

Marner, 19, ranked third among NHL rookies in scoring Monday with five goals and seven assists in 15 games.

Tkachuk, 18, has three goals and three assists in a dozen games.

Dvorak, 20, has a goal and four assists in 12 games.

Marner and fellow Leafs rookie Auston Matthews also scored a viral video hit singing along to Bon Jovi's Living On A Prayer on the bench during a 6-3 win Nov. 5 over Vancouver.

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"I brought it up to Mitch," Dvorak said. "He always sings on the bench, so it was about time a camera caught him. It's pretty funny."

When a teenager plays his 10th NHL game, the first year of his entry-level contract kicks in and makes it less likely he'll be sent back to his junior team.

Tkachuk received a congratulatory call from Knights head coach Dale Hunter after his 10th game, which also happened to be that Nov. 3 game against San Jose.

"Honestly, most junior organizations get pretty pissed off if some of their players don't come back, because it doesn't help out them, but the Knights, their only goal is to get you to the NHL," Tkachuk said.

Capping their major junior careers with a long and successful postseason may have set the table for Tkachuk, Marner and Dvorak to take that large step to the NHL.

"It's obviously on a crazy new level, but it definitely prepared us," Tkachuk said.

Added Dvorak: "I don't know if it helped us make [our teams], but it definitely helped us become better players which could lead to that."

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