Jared Knight will be a popular Boston Bruin someday. Heck, he might even be a fan favourite in Beantown.
Knight, the Bruins' second-round pick (32nd overall) in the 2010 draft impressed team brass at the prospect development camp this summer, vindicating what some people might have thought was a "reach" pick that early.
Knight had his share of snubs last year. He didn't get invited to the CHL Top Prospects Game and NHL Central Scouting had him ranked 82nd among North American skaters. Part of the problem for Knight last year was that he had diabetes and that contributed to a slow start. He was diagnosed in late November and began treatment soon after.
"It was more of a relief when I found out," Knight told Ryan Pyette of the London Free Press last January. "I knew something was wrong. I was sluggish. But I didn’t know what was causing it."
Knight managed only seven goals in his first 19 games but, after he started treating his diabetes, he notched 29 in his final 44 games – and added 10 in 12 playoff games. Knight finished with 46 goals in 75 games — regular season and playoffs combined. London GM Mark Hunter said Knight has proven that rankings and ceremonial events like the Top Prospects Game aren't as important as some think.
"Central Scouting isn’t everything," Hunter told the Free Press. "(NHL) teams have their own lists and that’s what I like to go by. They like their own players." So, even though Knight's diagnosis was well-publicized and, even though his production took off after that, he still had trouble garnering praise.
Two other scouting services ISS and Red Line Report had Knight pegged as an early third-rounder. One recognized that he was underrated (ISS) and the other raved about his great work ethic (Red Line). Still, Red Line projected of him was as a third-liner. With his shot and a move from centre to wing, Knight has second-line upside. Veteran London forward Daniel Erlich raved about Knight last year and how hard he worked on his shot after practice.
"I see his work ethic," Erlich told the Free Press. "He's always in the weight room, always shooting pucks. In my mind, he deserves to go in the top two rounds." Other players have managed successful NHL careers with diabetes – most notably Flyers legend Bobby Clarke.
Knight plays like a buzzsaw and has a knack for getting under the skin of opponents and often has to defend himself against larger players, something he needs to work on. He's strong for his size and is in great shape. He is well suited to the wing because he's more of a finisher than a playmaker. With soft hands and a variety of ways to score and willingness to go the dirty areas, his game should translate well to the pro game. To see a video compilation of Knight's handiwork check this out.
"He's a pure scorer this kid," Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli told Douglas Flynn of NESN.com for a ranking of Bruins top prospects. Knight was on the radar of many scouts before the season but dropped off a bit with his slow start. The Bruins kept their eye on him and when they brought him in for testing before the draft, they were impressed.
"He was off the charts strength-wise," Chiarelli told NESN.com. "It was terrific to see." Knight was listed at 5-foot-11 and 186 pounds last year and has bulked up to 200 pounds over the summer.
Knight is an excellent skater with very good puck skills and hockey sense. His shot is improving and has been described as a "cannon off the wing" by one long-timer London observer. Knight plays a similar style to a couple other well-know American right-wingers, showing bits of Jamie Langenbrunner and Bill Guerin.
One thing a coach or a fan can always count on with Knight is maximum effort; he always competes at a high level.
"As far as the conditioning goes, you kind of see what the pros do and how they prepare and get stronger and you just try to learn that, take it home with you and become a better player. I just want to get stronger. I'll be working out every day, skating 4-5 times a week, just trying to get ready and be the most prepared for camp that I can be."
OVERTIME: A follower on Twitter asked me about Brett MacLean and Jeremy Morin. He wanted to know which player's skating would hold him back more. It was a good question, but the more I thought about the answer the more I became convinced that any perceived difference in their skating ability on my part was not going to be the biggest factor in their NHL success. Both are natural goal-scorers with great hands and skating deficiencies. MacLean has played two years in the AHL and will be in tough to make the Phoenix Coyotes this year because coach Dave Tippett favours veterans. Morin has impressed at Chicago camp and will move through the ranks quickly because the Hawks are in cap trouble. That difference, more than their skating, will mean a better opportunity for Morin.