Kris Knoblauch is first thought of by fans as the bench boss in charge of Connor McDavid’s Erie Otters, but the 36 year old Saskatchewan native has coached an entire slew of top-ranked NHL prospects since stepping behind the bench of his first CHL club in 2010 – including both Max and Sam Reinhart, New York Rangers netminding prospect Mackenzie Skapski, and 2015 Draft eligible Dylan Strome.
Now, he’s looking to move up to the pro level…
Hearing that Mike Babcock has talked to Connor McDavid’s coach Kris Knoblauch, amongst others, for an assistant job in Toronto.
— Jim Matheson (@NHLbyMatty) June 10, 2015
Reports have come out from Toronto, Philadelphia, and Detroit pointing to talks between the major junior coach and each respective club, although Knoblauch himself has denied speaking to at least the Flyers about the AHL Phantoms head coaching job.
For Philadelphia, the move would mean that both their NHL and AHL head coaches would have no direct ties to the Flyers organization as former players, as the only link between Philly’s new head coach (former UND coach Dave Hakstol) and the club is that Hakstol once coached Flyers GM Ron Hextall’s son.
For Detroit and Toronto, though, the move makes more sense.
The Red Wings recently announced that former AHL head coach Jeff Blashill would take over for Mike Babcock next season, leaving their highly-esteemed farm team without a coach. Detroit is notoriously meticulous in their development process of prospects, which makes Knoblauch – who won the Memorial Cup with the Kootenay Ice in his first season as head coach and brought the Erie Otters to the OHL Finals this season – a perfect fit. Coaching in Grand Rapids, particularly if the AHL team meets with as much success under Knoblauch as they did under Blashill, could be an easy stepping stone to the NHL in the future.
Should Knoblauch consider Toronto, though, he would have the opportunity to come on board with a regime that’s currently trying to completely reshape themselves into something better.
Reports from Philly.com suggest that Knoblauch – who can also be credited as the coach of top-ranked Leafs prospect Connor Brown, draft eligible defensive prospect Travis Dermott, Washington Capitals up-and-comer Andre Burakovsky, and top-ranked rookie Alex DeBrincat – has spoken to Toronto about both an AHL Marlies coach job and coming on as an assistant in Toronto with Mike Babcock.
Should the Leafs select Strome at the NHL Entry Draft, that would give Knoblauch – in theory – two former players to work with down the road. It’s important to remember, though, that the Leafs have ties to the potential fourth overall pick as well – Toronto’s Director of Player Personnel, Mark Hunter, played a hand in drafting Mitch Marner nineteenth overall in the 2013 OHL Priority Selection.