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‘He means a lot to this community:’ Maple Leafs’ Matthew Knies talks about the impact of fellow Arizonian Auston Matthews

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Photo credit:Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
1 month ago
Auston Matthews is set to play in his seventh NHL game in Arizona tonight, and much like all the previous trips, the hot topic of conversation is the impact he’s had on hockey in the desert.
This trip, however, is a little different than the previous six, as Matthews’ winger, Matthew Knies, is set to play his first NHL game in his hometown state. A native of Phoenix, Knies grew up playing for the Phoenix Jr. Coyotes all the way from the u12 through u16 ranks, before heading off to play in the USHL.
While Matthews was entering the NHL in 2016, Knies was just entering the u14 ranks, and on Wednesday, he spoke about how many players looked up to that years first overall pick.
“He means everything,” said Knies. “When I was growing up, he was someone that I looked (up to). He was a big inspiration for a lot of kids growing up, and I’m sure he’s a big reason why a lot of kids picked up a hockey stick.
“He’s (instrumental) to Arizona hockey and he means a lot to this community.”
Tonight could shape up to be a special one for other reasons, too, with Matthews entering with 49 goals in 53 games. In his 54th tonight, he could hit the 50-goal mark in the same state he grew up playing his hockey. But if he were to score tonight, it wouldn’t be the first time he’s pilled up 50 in Arizona.
While Matthews wasn’t born ther, rather in San Ramon, California, he grew up playing many of his formidable years of junior hockey in The Grand Canyon State. It included the 2012-13 season with the Arizona Bobcats u16 AAA team, where he racked up 55 goals and 100 points in 49 games, springboarding him to join the U.S. National Development Team the following year.
Knies, meanwhile, said he would love to see Matthews hit the milestone mark tonight.
“I’m going to try to feed him the puck as much as possible,” he said.
In his first season, Knies has had his own ups and downs, still putting up a solid 10 goals and 23 points in 52 games. One thing that’s remained consistent, however, is him playing on the Leafs top line alongside 37. Of Knies’ 679 minutes at 5v5 this season, 448 of them have come alongside Matthews as the pair have dominated play.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@thenationnetwork.com.

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