Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Boston Bruins Prospect Series: #5 Jared Knight

Jared Knight, RW
5-11, 185
January 16, 1992
Shoots: Right
Boston's 2nd choice, 32nd overall in 2010
Signing status: Unsigned

Talent analysis

Physical: Below average size, but very athletic and strong. First step is so-so; lacks a real explosion, but straight-line speed is fine and demonstrated fluidity and good agility in his movements, especially when gaining the zone and crossing up the defenders. Hands are unreal- a wicked, wicked shooter and the rare example of a player who was talked up by management and then instantly delivered the goods. Can wire it top shelf from the outside, or crash the net and beat the goalie with quick moves in close. Relentless; feet are always moving and he plays as aggressively as they come when the puck is anywhere near him on the ice. Soft hands for giving and receiving passes. High-end skillset; played at top speed once his diabetes was diagnosed and treated, and really opened eyes at D-camp last week for his consistency and presence every day. A physical presence who gets up under bigger players with his low center of gravity and then lowers the boom. Defensive game is solid-- could stand to continue to learn that aspect and make himself more of an all-around player, but there is no questioning his energy and lethality in the offensive zone.

Intangibles: Scoring instincts and knack for finding the back of the net are off the charts. He's one of those players who is always around the puck-- as if it follows him around on the ice. Like every good scorer, he wants the puck on his stick at crunch time and he delivers more often than not. On the downside, someone who's scouted him said he needs to work on creating a little more for others, and is interested in how he'll do without Nazem Kadri feeding him the puck in London next season (Kadri is all but a lock to be in Toronto helping them to avoid handing another lottery pick to the B's). However, that's where the negatives end: He breathes, eats, sleeps hockey-- as committed a player you will find at any level. A dedicated gym rat; works his butt off in the weight room, so size will not be an issue for him. Like other players with his condition, he appears to have his diabetes under control and shows no signs of it affecting his play or energy. Comes from a close, stable family; father, Duane, is a 20+ veteran of the Battle Creek, Michigan Police Department. Excellent character and values, even though he drew the ire of USA Hockey when he shifted gears and went back on his commitment (and a verbal commitment to the University of Michigan) to go the OHL route, creating a contentious situation. Knight's intentions were clear-- he desired the best route to a possible NHL career and Dale Hunter's team provided that avenue. Some may criticize how it went down, but it appears that as the second selection of the second round, that Knight made the right choice.

2010 Development Camp assessment
Wow. That's really the best word to describe it. Prior to the draft, I looked at Knight and wondered if he had the size and skating to be a desireable target for Boston. Well, to the B's credit, they kept their interest in him a secret until shortly before the draft, but after watching him in Wilmington, I can't help but feel like I missed the boat on this kid. Although it was just a few days and internal scrimmages and drills, he showed every bit of the player Peter Chiarelli and Wayne Smith described in L.A. when they gushed about his natural scoring talents. He scored goals in all matters of ways in Wilmington: with a wicked wrister, hard snap shot, a surprisingly powerful slapper, or using the good old fashioned deke to fake out the goalie in close then tuck it into the short side. A lot of his goals were top shelf- where mama hides the cookies as Rick Jeannerette likes to say (usually much to the chagrin of Bruins fans listening to his call of the Buffalo-Boston games). But, Knight was the steak to Tyler Seguin's sizzle in Wilmington. The two fed off each other every day (Knight and Jordan Caron were both playing the off-wings with Seguin in the middle at camp).

He has the look of a 1st or 2nd-line winger if what we saw at D-camp wasn't a fluke. At worst, he'll play on the third line, because he simply brings too much to the table to be an outright bust. Players with Knight's natural instincts and hands don't grow on trees, and he'll endear himself to coaches with his pitbull-like mentality and nonstop motor. He can play a little center, too, which makes him all the more appealing given his versatility, but clearly his pro future lies at wing. The biggest obstacle to Knight's ascendancy as I can see it is his health. He's like a lot of undersized players who play a physical style in that he's going to suffer his share of bumps and bruises (or worse) because he simply does not know how to go at less than full tilt. He scored a memorable goal in such fashion, tucking the puck past Adam Courchaine after a dizzying array of moves in close after he dropped his shoulder and got around the defender. Knight slammed into the posts and lay on the ice for a few moments before getting up and returning to the bench, not missing a shift. But that incident encompasses Knight's risk at the pro level: he's going to do what comes natural, and as the old cliche goes, he might write checks his body can't cash. Changing him will be impossible, so the team can only hope he'll hold up under the strain. Knight, for all his skill and character, will likely go back to junior unless he is so other-worldly at camp in September.


"Jared's just a natural scorer, an amazing shooter who makes it look easy most of the time. He's the kind of player who goes out there with the confidence and belief that he's going to put the puck in the net on that shift and then he delivers. He's been through a lot over the past year and bounced back stronger than ever. I can't say enough about this kid and what it means to us that he's a Boston Bruin."- Bruins director of amateur scouting Wayne Smith to Bruins2010DraftWatch; June 26, 2010

“I had a great time, no doubt about it. The fans were really into it all week and it was just a great experience all around.”- Jared Knight to, Wilmington, Mass.; July 6-10, 2010

“I think the killer instinct has just gotta be in you. If you want that puck bad enough, you’re gonna get it. I think the shooter aspect comes from just working in the basement shooting pucks over and over with my dad, shooting on the shooter tutor downstairs, things like that.”- Jared Knight to, July 6-10, 2010

“They’re very professional the way they go about things. They have their trainers doing all their things and the coaching staff acting the way they do. So, it’s just a very professional organization, and I’m proud to be a part of it.”- Jared Knight to, July 6-10, 2010

“I think when you’re playing with guys like this, I think I said yesterday there’s six-foot guys, six-foot-six guys and I’m one of the smaller guys, so I just need to get stronger and just keep working in the weight room and improving my speed. I think another thing is just improving my defensive game. If you want to play in the NHL, you have to be good defensively, so that’s what I think I need to work on.”- Jared Knight to B2010DW, Wilmington, Mass.; July 6-10, 2010

The Final Word
I agonized over whether to have Knight or Ryan Button at the 5-spot for the B's, and in the end, I simply could not ignore what the diminutive winger did. This is not to downgrade Button, as I thought the two were the most successful of the players at camp on the whole, but Knight was the 32nd pick for a reason, and he proved that at D-Camp last week. Now, given the way things go at camp, the rankings could shift a bit, and Button's stock is seriously on the rise. But in the end, it was all about upside, and Knight is showing that he's got some legit chops as a potential top-six forward. Where it all ends up, I don't know. If I could have two No. 5s, I'd have Knight and Button there, but that's not how it works. So, watch for Button-- I didn't have him in my top-10 a few weeks ago, and he's the biggest riser on my list at No. 6. But Knight I had at 6, and he deserves to move into the top-five after his performance. He earned it. Is he ready for primetime, probably not. But, he's one who is going to have a lot of people watching him this year and next. One member of a rival OHL organization told me via email today that Knight was a "great pick" and a "pain in the arse to play against." High praise indeed, and I'm sure if the OHL teams had their druthers, they'd love to see Knight make the Boston roster this fall. Probably not going to happen, but don't tell Knight that-- he'll come in looking to make the cut. It will be interesting to see how he does when he's going up against the big time and actually trying to wrest a job from someone older, bigger and more experienced.

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