Spencer Knight is an intriguing prospect. As a goaltender, he is seen as a safe bet to be taken within the first 20 spots of the first round of this year’s draft.
Since Carey Price was taken fifth overall in the 2005 NHL Draft, not many goalies have been taken on the first day. Over the last decade-plus, the list of goaltenders picked in the first round is as follows:
- 2008 Chet Pickard (18th) by the Nashville Predators
- 2008 Thomas McCollum (30th) by the Detroit Red Wings
- 2010 Jack Campbell (11th) by the Dallas Stars
- 2010 Mark Visentin (27th) by the Phoenix Coyotes
- 2012 Andrei Vasilevskiy (19th) by the Tampa Bay Lightning
- 2012 Malcolm Subban (24th) by the Boston Bruins
- 2015 Ilya Samsonov (22nd) by the Washington Capitals
- 2017 Jake Oettinger (26th) by the Dallas Stars
Out of that list, Vasilevskiy jumps out. He’s the starter for Tampa Bay, and has worked out pretty well so far. The Capitals and Stars might have something with Samsonov and Oettinger, respectively, but time will tell in those cases. Some others haven’t panned out as expected.
There are quite a few reasons why goaltenders haven’t been drafted as early as they once were. If you take into consideration their time of development, the importance of entry-level contracts to help manage the cap, and the unpredictability of drafting at such a position as early as 18 years of age, we find ourselves in a time when fewer and fewer goaltenders will be taken with a high selection.
What does that means for Spencer Knight? Well, he’d have to prove most people wrong by showing why is he worthy of a first-round selection. And luckily for him, he has the tools to do just that.
Birthplace: Darien, Connecticut, USA
Weight: 200 lbs.
Team: U.S. National U-18 Team
Knight is a big specimen, standing at 6’3” and weighing 200 pounds. He’s athletic, calm, poised, technically sound, excellent with his rebound control, and communicates well with his teammates on the ice. He has most of the qualities you look for in a starting goaltender, from technique to his mental approach.
In 2018-19, Knight spent 16 games with the USNTDP Juniors, with a 2.21 goals-against average and sporting a save percentage of .903 before moving on to the Under-18 Team for 33 games. During that time, his save percentage was improved to .913. He has committed to Boston College for the 2019-20 season, where he will look to backstop a team that needs help as it rebuilds.
Now, some would look at those numbers and be merely mildly impressed. But if we compare them with Cayden Primeau’s stats before his draft and Jake Oettinger’s stats in the USHL/USDP in his draft season, we can already have a general idea of the play of Knight.
Primeau: USHL: 30 GP, 3.16 GAA, .895 Sv%; USDP: 1 GP, 0.00 GAA, 1.000 Sv%
Oettinger: USHL: 15 GP, 2.24 GAA, .919 Sv%; USDP: 37 GP, 2.38 GAA, .908 Sv%
We can see similarities with Oettinger’s numbers. So far, Oettinger has proven to be a fairly good goaltender at the NCAA level.
Knight’s work on the international stage this spring was exceptional. He helped USA capture a bronze medal in the IIHF Under-18 World Championship, all the while posting an impressive .936 save percentage and allowing just three goals every two games.
What distances him from his peers is his overall intelligence on the ice. He brings a comprehensive and effective game on a nightly basis. He isn’t overly flashy, and that is a good thing. He has a solid foundation all based on his stellar positioning and the athleticism to get to the more precise shots he faces.
He has powerful lateral strides to cover the bottom of the net, and an excellent butterfly stance. He doesn’t flop in his crease and is always square to the shooter.
With his size, he’s able to fight through traffic to spot loose pucks and can control his rebounds effectively to limit second chances for the opposition. His stature also makes him an intimidating presence for shooters, who are given little to aim for. He naturally reduces shooting angles, and with his already sound technique he makes quite the wall.
Add all of those physical gifts to his already high on-ice intelligence it creates quite the fearsome goaltender. He’s capable of reading the play as it unfolds in front of him with such a vision for plays that it is always impressive to watch him react before the shooter has the time to change his approach. He seems to be always thinking one step ahead of his opposition, keeping himself in the best position at all times and rarely falling behind the play in his defensive zone.
Some scouts have dubbed Knight the best American goalie prospect since Jonathan Quick. All of his tools make him a top-tier prospect with a many showing a great deal of confidence that we will become a starter in the NHL.
Rankings (not all rankings are final)
Future Considerations: #35
Hockey Prospect: #14
NHL Central Scouting: #1 (NA Goalies)
As much as Knight seems to be a polished product, he does have a few weaknesses in his kit. He does appear uncontrolled at times, with his strong pushes being simply too explosive or aggressive. He sometimes overplays certain shooting options, making himself square to one player and then being forced to use his powerful lateral movements when a pass is made instead. These movements can lead to potential tap-in goals with him on the wrong side of the net. Being too aggressive can also lead to overusing high-energy movements, which can sink one’s energy level over the course of the game.
Knight could take a page from Price’s book and focus on playing a calmer game. He already has so many traits that make him stand above his peers, if he can also learn to keep a better poise, to focus on playing to his strengths and sound techniques, he will fully take advantage of his gifts.