An 18-year-old London Knights player has died suddenly, the Ontario Hockey League team announced Saturday as their afternoon game was postponed while the team grieves the death.
Abakar Kazbekov was remembered as “a valued member of the team since 2021,” Knights officials said, adding: “Our thoughts are with his family, friends and teammates.”
The Knights players gathered together Saturday morning at their home rink, Budweiser Gardens. Their afternoon game against Flint was postponed and the team’s pre-Christmas break dinner, planned for later in the day, was cancelled. OHL officials later announced a Peterborough Petes-Kingston Frontenacs game and an Erie Otters-Saginaw Spirit game scheduled for Saturday night were also postponed “out of sensitivity” to those involved “who were close” to Kazbekov.
The six-foot-one Russian centre was the Knights’ first-round pick in the under-18 draft in 2021. At the time, GM Mark Hunter praised Kazbekov’s “high hockey sense, top playmaking ability, and . . . great shot.”
Kazbekov previously played with the Vaughan Kings AAA U16 team. He played 21 games for the Knights over the past two seasons, registering two points.
Sources tell The Free Press Kazbekov’s death occurred downtown, where London police on Saturday morning closed an intersection after a body was found outside a luxury condo highrise. Police tape cordoned off Talbot Street near Dufferin Avenue, outside the Azure Condominiums.
Police say they were called to the scene just after 8 a.m. Talbot Street remained closed between Kent Street and Dufferin Avenue as the investigation continued Saturday afternoon. Police told The Free Press foul play is not suspected.
Kazbekov’s death stunned the Ontario Hockey League – Commissioner David Branch called it a “devastating loss” – and startled Londoners, with Mayor Josh Morgan and police Chief Steve Williams both issuing public statements.
“Our heartfelt condolences to Abakar’s family and loved ones, including his London Knights teammates and the entire Knights organization,” Williams wrote on social media.
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