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Sunday FTB: Could Matthew Knies be the big forward acquisition?

What to expect when you’re expecting a top six forward

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2022 NCAA Division I Mens Ice Hockey Championship - Northeast Regional Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images

Depending on what insider or rumour you believe, the Maple Leafs are apparently thinking of prioritizing a bigger (but not too big) forward acquisition, or two small acquisitions — one at forward, one at defense. Either way, a forward may be involved.

We also have heard that they really, really want to sign Matthew Knies once his NCAA season is over. One small issue may be that if Minnesota goes on a deep run in the playoffs, he’ll only have time to get into 3-5 games before the regular season is over. That’s not a lot of time to get up to speed with NHL play and the system Toronto employs before the playoffs. A very important playoff series, no less.

There’s also the question of what we can expect from Knies, if/when he does sign his ELC and maybe gets into an NHL game or two. Last year, we saw Nick Abruzzese go through the same thing. His team was eliminated from the playoffs much earlier into the tournament, so he wound up getting into 9 NHL games — but no playoff games. He has since played all of this season in the AHL, where he’s looked okay. Not really ready for a full time NHL role.

Knies is a much different kind of player. He’s younger, a more highly regarded prospect, and bigger/more of a power forward than a smaller, skilled guy. Knies has a very NHL-ready style of game. He is already used in all situations, including on the PK where he has had some short handed goals. Even if he doesn’t produce on the scoresheet, he can have an impact on the game with his size, skating and forechecking.

I want to emphasize that last part, because I don’t think Knies is going to be producing points very much when he comes to the NHL. The hype around him got a bit ahead of itself after last season, so I can say the odds of him immediately playing as the second line left winger and turning into another Bunting or Hyman right away are low. Odds are, if he does earn a role in the NHL right away it will be in the bottom six.

But that begs the question: assuming everyone is healthy, whose spot does Knies take? He’ll have to be taking the spot of one of Kerfoot, Engvall, Kampf, Aston-Reese, Hunt, and Holmberg, While I won’t say it is impossible for that to happen, I do think it’s unlikely. While I do think he plays a pro-style game, the jump from the NCAA to the NHL is a pretty significant one. And like I said, he probably won’t have much time to earn that spot before the playoffs come around. So then you gotta ask if Keefe is likely to “test him out” once the playoffs come around?

I do think it could happen, just because of the kind of player Knies is. He could conceivably beat out someone like Hunt, or fill in for someone if there is an injury. He could play the net front on the second PP unit, he could pitch in on the PK, and he can skate around like a mad man crunching anything in an opposing jersey that moves.

Poll

Where do you think Knies will be come playoff time?

This poll is closed

  • 26%
    Right next to Tavares and Marner
    (183 votes)
  • 27%
    In the bottom six
    (190 votes)
  • 24%
    As a healthy scratch
    (172 votes)
  • 22%
    Returning to Minnesota for one more year
    (154 votes)
699 votes total Vote Now

LINKS FROM THE BRANCHES

Recap: Maple Leafs and Bruins play off — Boston with the win | by Katya

Corsi and xG is dead even at five-on-five, so if you’re seeing the Leafs horribly outplayed, you might be watching through the glass half empty.

That said, if it takes this intensity of pressure to dent Ullmark, you can’t whiff on passes and give the puck away in return.

The Bruins are weak on overall puck control. They aren’t as good at five-on-five play as the Leafs can be. That’s the place to press hard.

TLN’s 2022-23 Midseason Leafs Prospect Rankings: Prospects 5-1 | by TLN

Like Hirvonen, Niemelä should join the Marlies at the conclusion of his Liiga season and be a full-time player for them in 2023-24. His well-rounded game and experience at the pro level should make for an easy transition, and it might not be long before he finds himself pushing for NHL minutes.

Joseph Woll sets new franchise record with his ninth consecutive victory | by MLHS

“Joseph Woll has been here for some time, and it is impressive to see how much better he has gotten year to year,” said Greg Moore. “This year, he is putting it all together and looks really solid and confident. He is relying on a good system. Proud of him for the work he has put in.”

Can Maple Leafs’ Bobby McMann play his way into a role with the team? | by The Athletic

All along, Bobby played the kind of game that kept coaches interested. It’s a game that was distilled in what he thought was his first NHL goal — effective use of strength to win battles in difficult areas of the ice, soft hands to create scoring opportunities and no quit whatsoever.

USHL Stock Watch: Nicholas Moldenhauer catching fire with Chicago Steel | by EP Rinkside

Moldenhauer has taken another step forward in his development this season, already with 35 points in 25 games, fifth among all players in the USHL. He also recently announced his long-awaited commitment to the University of Michigan, where he’ll headline another stacked freshmen class for the Wolverines.

The same habits that drew us to Moldenhauer’s game last season are driving his success in this campaign. Playmaking continues to be a strength of his; Moldenhauer is a deft passer, always moving and creating passing opportunities with subtle shimmies away frrom the puck. He uses slips, hooks, and area passes then gets himself into space to make himself an option for a return pass. He’s got nice touch around the net, sneaking behind defenders and fighting through checks for loose pucks.

Have a great Sunday everyone!