NHL Draft Profile: Spencer Knight

Spencer Knight is the top goalie among most draft aficionados. He was the unheralded backbone of one of the best USNTDP of all-time. His ability to stay calm, cool and collected paired with maybe the best athleticism for any player in the draft combine to make Knight a top prospect in the 2019 NHL Draft.

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Name: Spencer Knight

Date of Birth: April 19, 2001

Nationality (Place of Birth): American (Darien, CT, USA)

Hieght: 6’3″

Weight: 198lbs

Catches: Left

Position: G

Rankings

Ranked #12 by TSN/McKenzie

Scouting Report

The top goaltender in the draft has been outstanding all year. He has shown all the tools that talent evaluators look for in a young goaltender. His mental make-up is strong and he does an excellent job staying poised. He doesn’t panic or get flustered after allowing a weak goal. He stays focused and is able to see around screens because he shows great awareness of the play. The American goaltender does an excellent job at keeping his back upright and keeping a solid base to ensure that he’s using his entire 6’3″ frame in the net. In the video below, you can see Knight hold his ground despite the Finnish players best attempt at poking the puck free.  

Throughput the year, Knight showed that his maturity was well beyond his years. Often times with young goalies, sustained pressure from the opposition can lead to a break down in positioning and cause the young netminder to allow a goal that he would normally save. This isn’t often the case for Knight. He is able to harness his poise and focus in on tracking the puck while staying in good position. His eyes stay locked in on the puck and he is able to make multiple saves by kicking his pads out and closing down on the puck despite good movement from the opposing team. The video below if a perfect example of Knights ability to keep focused and dialed in on the puck. 

 

At the draft combine, many came away with the realization that Knight was among the best athletes in the draft. Knight shows his impressive athleticism with his ability to move laterally with precision and recover on plays that become a scramble in front of him. His lateral movement is extremely crisp and he rarely overshoots his positioning. He comes across the crease with a strong push. His ability to keep his upper body high while sliding over helps him stay big and cover the net as he transitions. Below you can see Knight unable to corral the loose puck in front of him but quickly recovers and uses his athleticism to make an outstanding save. 

Lower body strength and stability is an asset that goalies need and Spencer Knight has both. The future franchise netminder has the strength to keep his pad down and pinned to either post while still being able to stay upright and actively following the puck. The lower body strength aids in his push off from post-to-post and allows him to kick out his pads during a slide. As you can see below, Knight is able to use the aforementioned lower body strength to push off the right post and explode towards the recipient of the pass. His strong core allows him to stay upright long enough to make the marvelous save. 

When it comes to positioning, Knight is consistently stable. He plays a mature game which makes him far ahead of the curve for draft eligible goaltenders. The goalkeeper does a good job at absorbing the puck into his chest and not allowing egregious rebound more often than not. His reflexes have developed further throughout the year and he’s been able to track and catch shots quite well. When the puck is shot to his blocker side, he often deflects the puck into the corner or up into the net depending on the situation. Knight is able to track a pass through the middle of the ice and not over commit on a slide. He stops in perfect position and is able to make the save with ease as you can see in the video below.  

What the Detractors Say

While no 18-year-old goaltender is perfect, Spencer Knight does everything you’d like a goaltender to do. One of the few aspects of Knight’s game that scouts have picked on is his tendency to play fairly deep in his net at times. While he comes out to challenge shooters in one-on-one scenarios, he has sunken into his net at times during sustained pressure. While this hasn’t been an issue at junior level, it could become an issue at the next level as the athletic goalie moves forward. His athleticism helps him make up for the depth in which he plays at but he could stand to play a little higher in his crease.

Preseason Outlook

Having played in 14 games with the USNTDP U18 team a year early, many expected Knight to put on a show for the 2018-19 season. His positioning and athleticism allowed him to play up a level with success. Coming into the year, the young goaltender was considered the top goalie and he did nothing to change that fact.

Video courtesy of Justy Power YouTube

USNTDP Success

The top-tier prospect in net was outstanding this year on a stacked USNTDP team. With the high-powered offence, Knight certainly received his fair share of goal support but there was a number of times where Knight would put on a goaltending clinic. Early in the season Knight put together a masterful performance against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, ranked third in the NCAA at the time. Showing off all of his tools, this game signified his dominance and showed that he can read a play and play good positional hockey at a young age. In the video below, Knight makes an outstanding save on a slap shot from the circle. He shows excellent reflexes with the glove stage. 

Knight continued to put together good performances against both USHL and NCAA competition. He finished the year with a save percentage of .903 against USHL opponents but a .913 overall if you include the tougher NCAA schedule as well. This showed that he was able to play up to the competition and he benefitted from facing more steady work rather than the games in the USHL where his team often outshot the opposition by a wide margin.

Strong U18 World Championships

The world stage was where Knight shone brightest this year. At the U18 World Championships this year, Knight was able to dominate his peers. In his six games at the tournament, he allowed just 1.51 goals against average and had a sparkling .936 save percentage. However it was the save that he made that showed he would be an NHL goaltender sooner than many thought coming into the year.

Spencer Knight will be taken…

Somewhere in the 15-25 range most likely but there’s a chance he goes slightly earlier. Goalies are seldom drafted in the first round anymore but Knight is destined to be the exception. He’s one of the best American goaltending prospects in years and projects extremely well. His athleticism and mental fortitude will serve him well as he hopes to take the next step at Boston College next year. He is likely to step into a prominent role in the program despite being a freshman. His first task will be taking full control of the net and continuing to develop with the help of his Boston College athletic staff. The future franchise goaltender should, and likely will, be selected in the middle of the first round of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.

For more on the NHL, prospects and the NHL Draft, follow me here at @TheTonyFerrari on twitter!

All stats and information provided by Elite ProspectsDobber Prospects and NHL.com

Dallas Stars

Dallas Stars: The Goaltender Depth

Let’s take a look at the Dallas Stars goalie depth.

The Dallas Stars have a plethora of good goalies and good goalie specs. In the NHL, the Stars have starter Ben Bishop and backup Anton Khudobin. The Stars also have NCAA/AHL goalies Colton Point and Jake Oettinger. When Bishop and Khudobin contracts expire/retire/get traded away, the Stars will still be in good hands goalie wise.

Ben Bishop

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Dallas Stars starting goaltender “Big Ben” Bishop has been nominated for the Vezina trophy this season after posting a .934 save percentage and a 1.98 GAA in 46 regular season games. These numbers are absolutely insane but Bishop is no stranger to putting up huge numbers. In the 2015-16 season with the Tampa Bay Lightning, he put up a .926 Save Percentage and a 2.06 GAA in 61 regular season games. In 2014-15, also with the Lightning, he had a .916 Save Percentage and a 2.32 GAA in 62 regular season games. Bishop is an absolute beast in net but he has one fatal flaw, he’s injury prone. Bishop’s career has been overshadowed by injuries, especially after the 2014-15 season when he tore his groin. Two years after tearing his groin, he was traded from the Lightning to the Los Angeles Kings. In that season with the Lightning, he was a train-wreck in net, despite holding steady at a .911 in 31 games. The 32 year old net-minder, if he can stay healthy will no doubt be a great goalie for the Stars for years to come.

Anton Khudobin

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Dallas Stars Backup goaltender Anton Khudobin is a very capable backup goaltender, who has spent the entirety of his career moving around between the NHL and the AHL. This year, however, he spent the entire season in the NHL behind Bishop, posting a .923 in 41 games. Khudobin is 33 and had the best season of his career, but there’s no reason to think he would continue this level of production. Soon, the Stars should move on from the aging goaltender and bring up someone young like Jake Oettinger.

Jake Oettinger

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Jake Oettinger has posted consistent .915+ save percentage seasons while playing for Boston University. Even though he’s struggled in the AHL, he’s only played there for a short amount of time. In the 2018-19 season, he played 6 games in the AHL and had a save percentage of .895. If he plays in Texas full-time next season, then we should see his numbers rise. After a season or two, if he puts up solid numbers in the AHL, the Stars should call him up and have him back-up Bishop until he’s ready to take over.

stats from theahl.com, hockey-reference.com

featured image photo credit – Nikos Michals

Dallas Stars

Dallas Stars: A Bright Future In North Texas

The Dallas Stars’ future is looking bright after a 2nd round exit from the Stanley Cup Playoffs last week.

There will be a lot of questions to answer this summer. Will Mats Zuccarello stay? Does Jason Spezza come back? Just to name a few.

While there are plenty of questions around the direction of the franchise, the future is bright in Dallas and the Stars should be back in the playoffs in 2020. 

A Ton of Cap Space

With the salary cap increase to roughly 83 million, the Stars are looking at about 22 million USD to play with.

I believe that is enough to keep the key pieces in Dallas and go after a couple of free agents. The Stars will likely be in the market for another top 6 forward and maybe a top 4 defenseman.

Core Players Locked Up

Dallas has a lot of their core players coming back next season and they are going to be staying in Dallas for awhile. Here is a list of the core players and when they will be free agents.

Jamie Benn – July 1, 2025

Tyler Seguin – July 1, 2027

Alexander Radulov – July 1, 2022

Ben Bishop – July 1, 2023

John Klingberg – 2022

Young Talent

The Stars also have a lot of young talent to go along with the veterans on the team.

Most notably is defenseman Miro Heiskanen (19 yrs old) who had an amazing rookie year this season, and is expected to have an even better sophomore campaign. Another great young talent is rookie Roope Hintz (22 yrs old), who flourished in the playoffs. Lastly, the Stars also have Esa Lindell (24 yrs old). Lindell had a bumpy season, but if he can play like he did in 2017-2018 next season, he’ll be worshipped in Dallas yet again.

Decisions, Decisions

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The biggest decision this summer will be what to do with Mats Zuccarello. It’s evident from his exit interview that he feels strongly about staying with the Stars. He was quoted saying, “This is my team now”.

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The Stars also have to decide if they are holding onto Jason Spezza. He’ll be 36 in June and had a $7.5 million dollar cap hit last season. All season long, I’ve brought up that I don’t see Spezza being a long-term fit in Dallas. But, he does have a lot to offer. He’s a solid veteran leader in the locker room and can still be effective in the offensive zone. If the Stars do bring him back, my assumption is that Spezza will sign a one or two year deal.

Stars general manager Jim Nill will also have to make up his mind about Stephen Johns. Johns could land up on LITR after he suffered a nasty concussion. Unfortunately, Johns has had post concussion symptoms and hasn’t returned to the lineup.

In Montgomery We Trust

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The Stars made a great hire in head coach Jim Montgomery, and I think the team has bought into his system. The defense and goaltending is great. So, if the Stars can add 1 or 2 forwards in the off-season, they should be dominant in 2019-2020.

Concerns

My biggest concern is the goaltending. Goaltending hasn’t been bad, but Ben Bishop’s health has been a concern. In addition, I’m also concerned about his longevity. How long can Bishop continue to be dominant in net? He had an outstanding year last season with a 27-15-2 record, a 1.98 GAA and a .921 SV%. Additionally, Bishop now owns the longest shutout streak in franchise history (previously held by Ed Belfour). His success in 2018-19 paved the way for Bishop being named a finalist for the Vezina Trophy. But, he only played in 46 of 82 games due to injury. 

Perhaps, the Stars will look to secure some goaltender depth in the draft or in free agency. Or maybe the Stars feel confident that Bishop can hold down the fort until prospect Jake Oettinger is ready to step into the spotlight.

Conclusion

I believe Dallas has the right coach in place and the right players. If they can sign a few more pieces this summer, I believe they will be back in the playoffs and return to the glory days of the late 90’s and the early 00’s.

sources: Hockey-Reference.com, NHL.com, CapFriendly.com

featured image photo credit: Nikos Michals

 

 

 

 

 

Dallas Stars

Dallas Stars: Esa Lindell’s Razzie Nomination

Last night, Dallas Stars defenseman Esa Lindell was caught red handed for embellishment. His embellishment was reminiscent of the types of flops that soccer/futbol fans are accustomed to seeing. His flopping was almost Arjen Robben-like.

In the below GIF from Brady Trettenero, creator of Gino Hard and writer at Canucks Army, you’ll see an exchange between St. Louis Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo and Esa Lindell. The exchange happened during the second period of play.

The GIF starts off with Bortuzzo cross-checks Lindell. After Bortuzzo cross-checks Lindell, Lindell falls to the ice. Bortuzzo who is clearly annoyed by Lindell’s embellishment decides to cross-check him two more times. The referees decided to penalize both Lindell and Bortuzzo for the altercation.

Awful Acting By Lindell

Esa Lindell got called out for a very bad acting job. The initial cross-check from Bortuzzo didn’t look that rough. It looked like a normal cross-check, but Lindell who was determined to get a power-play, took a dive to try to land a power-play. His embellishment is truly worth of a Golden Raspberry Award (Razzie). Razzies are traditionally given to actors/actresses/filmmakers for awful acting. 

My Reaction

When I first heard the call, they were talking about a double minor so I thought it was on Bortuzzo. I didn’t think that Lindell was going to get a call. There has been so much embellishment across the NHL that has gone unnoticed. But, the referees made the call and put Lindell in the penalty box.

Later on in the game, Lindell tried it again on the game winning goal by Pat Maroon. Unfortunately for the Stars and their fan base, it seems like Lindell’s got a taste of his own medicine. Evidently, the penalty wasn’t a wake up call, so perhaps the game winning goal by Maroon will teach him a lesson.

Looking back on the sequence and watching all the video clips on Twitter, it was a boneheaded move that most likely cost the Dallas Stars the game.

player profiles – Hockey-Reference.com

featured image photo credit – Nikos Michals

 

The Hockey Gods answered the Nashville Predators prayers in Game 3

After Game 3, the Nashville Predators have taken a 2-1 series lead over the Dallas Stars.

Game Summary

First period highlights

The Dallas Stars defence looked fragile to open the game. The Nashville Predators attack was relentless jumping out to a 9-1 lead in shots on goal less than eight minutes into the game. Nashville blue-liner P.K. Subban sets the tone early, standing up Stars captain Jamie Benn just outside the defensive zone. A power play less than five minutes into the game and sustained momentum and pressure set things up for the predators to take control.

The only Dallas players that looked ready-to-roll in the opening half of the period were net-minder Ben Bishop and trade deadline acquisition Mats Zuccarello. Bishop made key saves, allowing the Stars to find their footing in their first home playoff date of the year. Zuccarello was able to buzz around the offensive zone largely of his own doing with no help from his team.

About 13 minutes into the game, things started taking a turn as the Stats and Predators both begin to engage much more physically and the Stars finally find their game. A never-ending forecheck by the Stars begins to even out the scoring chances but the physicality becomes the story of the period.

The officiating seemed to let the players to engage physically and putting their whistles away a bit after each team received a power play in the first ten minutes. By the end of the period, the Dallas Stars had brought the scoring chances closer to even and the Predators controlling shots 14-10.


Tweet courtesy of @thePointHockey

Second Period highlights

The middle frame opened with the Stars jumping on the Predators. Dallas was able to sustain pressure and work around the offensive zone. Pekka Rinne was able to stop the first few shots of the period, looking calm and collected.

The Predators finally gain control of the puck and winger Rocco Grimaldi, who had a goal in game two, streaks up the boards into the Dallas zone. Firing a shot at Bishop in an effort to create a rebound for the forwards crashing the net, Bishop’s effort to hide the puck to the opposite corner ended up deflecting the puck into his own net. Grimaldi fortunate to put the Predators up 1-0.


Tweet courtesy of @PredsNHL

Shortly after the Nashville goal, Dallas gets an opportunity with the man advantage. Almost immediately Nashville penalty killer Nick Bonino commits a tripping penalty sending the stars to a long 5-on-3 power play. The power play was able to create chance after chance with Pekka Rinne standing tall, killing off the entirety of both penalties, pushing the Dallas power play to 0-for-9 over game two and three.

Thanks to the extended power play and the long 2-man advantage, the Stars were outshooting the Predators 24-17 with 12 minutes played in the second period. Following the power plays however, the Stars began to sag in play again, allowing the Predators to bide their time and return to their game plan.

On a long flip pass from the defensive zone, Nick Bonino sends Filip Forsberg into the Dallas zone. Forsberg powers to the net, using his underrated strength on the puck to drive pst Bishop while holding off the defender to tuck the puck into the Dallas net. Stars fall behind by two.


Tweet courtesy of @NHLGIFs

Much like the first period, Dallas’ best skater on the ice continued to be Zuccarello. The diminutive forward finally cracked the Nashville goaltender with under three minutes to play in the second period. With a perfect reception of a stretch pass from Stars top defencemen John Klingberg, Zuccarello true to imitate the move Forsberg had just pulled at the other end of the ice, scoring to make the game a one goal affair heading into the intermission.


Tweet courtesy of @NHLGIFs

Third Period highlights

The final period of regulation begins with Dallas on a power play thanks to an Austin Watson penalty with less than 30 seconds left in the second. The Star only generated two shots on goal with the extra man, with neither being particularly dangerous. The momentum from the power play helped maintain pressure for the Dallas but a stellar defensive shift from Subban and Mattias Ekholm prevent anything from manifesting.

With play evening out a bit during the middle of the third period, both teams create chances and the play goes back and forth. Both Rinne and Bishop make save after save, each trying to hold their team in the game as Dallas tries to score to tie and Nashville tries to get an insurance goal.

After just over eight minutes to play, an odd play behind the net where Subban winds up riding the back of Alexander Radulov in what probably should have been a penalty, resulted in Benn recovering the puck and putting it on a tee for Tyler Seguin who makes no mistake, tying the game at two as the Stars begin to control play.


Tweet courtesy of @JDajani247

In a game that seemingly turned in the Stars favour, the hockey gods seemed to have different ideas. After Dallas is denied by Pekka Rinne on an asinine save, Mikael Granlund scores his first of the playoffs and second as a Predator since being acquired at the deadline.

Tweet courtesy of @NHLGIFs

For more evidence that the hockey gods played a role in the latter half of this game, look no further than John Klingberg’s stick shattering as he attempted to one-time a puck with his goalie pulled. Possibly the puck that bounced around the crease for seconds while sticks whacked away to no avail or a shot off the post that fell directly in Rinne’s laps. The game ended with the Dallas Stars pressuring as they had been for the entire second half of the game but coming up short. Nashville takes relief that the escape with a 3-2 win and a 2-1 series lead.

Hero of the Game

Pekka Rinne was a star tonight. The Vezina-winning goalie played like it tonight. With numerous great saves, he was the biggest reason that the Predators were even in this game. While the team played well in the first period, the Stars dominated the last two. Facing 42 shots and only allowing the two, Rinne was the MVP for the night. His saves were spectacular at times as he flipped flopped in the net in desperation, knowing he couldn’t allow another. Pekka gets the cape for the night as the Predator’s hero.

My Team Villain

The real villain that plagued the Dallas Stars wasn’t anyone on the Predators. It was the “hockey gods” themselves. Every puck bounce in this game seemed to go Nashville’s way. Two flukey goals and a close to offside goal for the Predators and multiple posts and a show put on by the opposing goaltender resulted in a game that the Stars probably walk away from feeling like they were robbed. While there isn’t anything that Nashville did in particular to win this game, the Stars certainly don’t feel as if they deserved to lose it.

Three Stars of the Game

🌟 NSH G Pekka Rinne, 40 saves, 2 goals against, .952 S%

🌟🌟 DAL C Tyler Seguin, 1G, 11 SOG, 67.8% CF%

🌟🌟🌟 DAL RW Mats Zuccarello, 1G, 2 SOG, 71.4% CF%

Where do they go from here?

Image courtesy of Point Hockey

The Dallas Stars dominated this game. They were able to weather a first period attack from the Predators and the. Took over for the final two frames. The hockey gods didn’t reward the Stars for their effort and they were extremely unlucky by coming out of this game with a win. If Dallas plays the rest of the series like they did in game three, they should take this series. Nashville looked uninspired outside of Rinne and their defensive pairing of Subban and Ekholm. The graphic above from the Point Hockey shows just how dominant the Stars were in this game. The only change that the Stars need to make is beating Pekka Rinne a few more times.

For more on the NHL, follow me here at @TheTonyFerrari on twitter!

All stats and info is from nhl.comhockey-reference.com, theScore.com, Point Hockey and Naturalstattrick.com

Feature image is credited to Nikos Michals