#3: Matthew Knies
The Leafs picked Matthew Knies with the 57th overall pick in the 2021 NHL entry draft, and the 19-year-old forward has already provided them first-round value. In his rookie season with the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers, Knies has dominated the opposition. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound American currently has nine goals and 25 points in 26 games. Recently Knies caught the eye of more onlookers when he was named to the United States Olympic team in Beijing. In the tournament, Knies had two points in four games as the US was eliminated without a medal.
The young prospect’s physical game is certainly his biggest asset. A lot of young players develop into big-bodied threats with a growth spurt and don’t know quite how to utilize their newfound size, but Knies is an outlier. He uses his size and excellent knowledge of positioning to be the first player on pucks, winning nearly every puck battle when driven. His awareness away from the puck allows him to become an under the radar scoring threat, finding space after exploiting uneven matchups.
At the Olympics, Knies showed that he can be effective against pro players, and that he could likely make an impact at the AHL level right away. However, as he continues to develop his puck skills and defensive prowess, Knies will benefit from another season or two in the NCAA. He is already a tremendous leader, but more time to mature and learn at school is never a bad thing. His physicality and hockey IQ might be just what the Canucks need to regain a league wide reputation like they had in 2011: difficult to play against.
With Rick Dhaliwal of CHEK TV and The Athletic reporting on Thursday that the Leafs, after inquiring about Miller, have possibly decided to go another way, perhaps I got ahead of myself in becoming excited about these prospects. However, with the Leafs also reportedly interested in Vancouver defenceman Luke Schenn, there is a world where the Canucks pursue these assets without losing the services of Miller.
It is worth mentioning that one of Toronto’s top prospects, Rodion Amirov, who has been mentioned as a trade chip before, was diagnosed with a brain tumour on Wednesday. This effectively takes him off the table as some things are far more important than hockey, and what is most important right now is that Dubas and the Leafs provide him the best support and care that they can. The entire hockey world wishes Rodion the best, and you can reach out to him with words of support at Amirov@goldstarhockey.com.