Matthew Knies is “confident” he could be an effective player at the pro level
Photo credit:Matt Krohn/Gophersports.com
By Nick Barden1 month ago
Matthew Knies is the top prospect in the Maple Leafs’ system, and at this rate might is also one of the top players in college hockey.
Ever since returning to the University of Minnesota, the 20-year-old has been lights out. His 17 goals and 14 assists puts him on pace to set a new high for points at college, but it might also lead him to the Hobey Baker Award.
Knies joined Nick Alberga and Jay Rosehill for ‘Leafs Morning Take‘ on Wednesday to discuss a number of topics, including the Hobey Baker Award and what it’s like to be nominated for it.
“That’s a tremendous honour, obviously you see the guys that come before all have super careers in the NHL,” Knies told Leafs Morning Take. “So, to be nominated is an honour. Alongside the two guys on our team, it’s tremendous that I could put my name on that kind of list.
“I’m keeping my hopes high, but I think it’s definitely a tremendous honour.”
Last April, Knies made the decision to stay at school for another year to try and win a National Championship before turning pro with the Maple Leafs. And in a few months, the 20-year-old will need to make a decision once again.
So, with that being said, does his mind ever wander to the point of where he thinks about what it would be like to play in the NHL?
“Yeah, I mean it’s always in the back of my head,” Knies told Leafs Morning Take. “You dream about it as a kid, to play in the NHL, to play at that level. But, I have to focus on just being here (at college). I gotta focus on one team at a time, and just focusing on winning, being the best player I can, being as effective as I can here.
“And when that time comes to make that decision, that’s when I maybe will be able to put those thoughts in my head and really think about how that could be reality for me. So, I kind of just have it in the back of my head but I’m not gonna let it eat away at me and affect the way I’m playing here.”
The transition from college to professional hockey is a huge jump in competition — that shouldn’t be understated. But Knies, along with his size and strength, believes he’s ready for that next step.
Whenever that may be.
“I don’t know if anyone was ever as ready as like [Cale Makar] was,” Knies told Leafs Morning Take. “It’s a transition, it’s definitely a big step.
“I’m confident that I can be at this level, be an impactful player at this level, learn to dominate, and then kind of move on. So, I think I’m there. There’s parts of my game that I wanted to work on this year when I was coming back that I needed to mature, grow into a leadership role as well.
“That’s the whole tale of why I needed one more year to come back, so I’ve definitely made those adjustments, I’ve definitely got better as a player and a person off the ice as well. So I think I’m definitely closer to making that step, I’m not really sure, again, what that decision is gonna be until that time comes up where I have to sit down and say yes or no.
“But for now, I’m confident that I could be an effective player at the pro level. Again, I just have to focus on myself here and one team at a time.”
As a player drafted by Toronto, Knies receives advice from the Maple Leafs’ staff on what they’d like him to work on throughout the season. It could be something they’d like to see him improve on the ice, maybe even off the ice as well.
The 20-year-old said it has benefited him a great amount.
“They’ve been wonderful to have on my side, honestly.” Knies told Leafs Morning Take. “They’ve been wonderful with giving me space on my decision, not trying to bug me too much in my year and kind of telling me what to do at that time.
“During the season, they’ve come up and they’ve helped with nutrition, they’ve helped with off-ice work, drills on the ice, just little things they can help around with. And just not too much where it gets overwhelming, so that’s what’s really nice about it.
“I think they have a really good balance of communication with me, so that’s been wonderful.”
If there’s anything Knies will remember about his days before the NHL, it’ll be his first-ever Olympics back last year. The 20-year-old played for Team USA, scoring a goal and an assist throughout four games.
It’s an experience he’ll never forget.
“It was unbelievable from start to finish.” Knies told Leafs Morning Take. “The opening ceremonies to playing our first game to playing against Team Canada with guys like Eric Staal, who’s played I think like 13 or 1400 games in the NHL now.
“Play alongside guys who have NHL pro experience, some of the best college athletes as well, get to meet guys like Shaun White, that whole experience in total was unbelievable.”
Knies continued onto discuss the food and joked that it wasn’t the best place for meals.
“I remember before the Team Canada game, there was nothing to eat,” Knies told Leafs Morning Take, “so I had cereal but I didn’t want to have milk because I thought I’d be too full, so I had cereal with water before the game to get me full.”
The biggest surprise of the interview was when Knies was asked about one of his favourite hockey players growing up.
That player? Boston Bruins legend, Zdeno Chara.
“I just loved Chara, I loved how he was the biggest guy on the ice as a kid,” Knies told Leafs Morning Take. “I also loved that he was Slovakian, like my parents, so I thought that was really cool.
“And then from then on, I fell in love with it. I just loved how he was always the guy that everyone was afraid of, didn’t want to play with. I think some of the guys would say that he’s the toughest guy to go into the corner with and that’s the kind of thing I love.
“I thought he was just a fun player to watch, how tough he was and how everyone was a little aware of him when he was on the ice. So, that’s where I kind of fell in love with him, but obviously a huge influence, I looked up to him as well. He was someone I loved to watch growing up.”
If you’d like to watch the full interview with Knies, it will be below.
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