Matthew Knies should be a lock for the top-six next season

Photo credit:Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Shane Seney
1 month ago
Matthew Knies had a coming-out party during the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Next season, regardless of who is coaching the Maple Leafs, he should be pencilled in the top six. Actually, they might as well write it in ink.
Knies went through some ups and downs during his first full season in the NHL. He finished the year with 15 goals and 35 points in 80 games and scored all of his goals at even strength, as he was never a consistent option for Sheldon Keefe with the man advantage, only averaging 37 seconds of power-play time a game. That certainly needs to change next season. The 21-year-old knew his rookie year was going to be a day-in and day-out grind as he had never played more than a 44-game season at any point in his hockey career. While there were certainly some dips in production throughout the regular season, which resulted in him moving throughout the lineup, the playoffs were a much different story.
Knies proved very quickly he’s built for playoff hockey. He takes pride in his two-way game and never gives up on pucks. He wasn’t afraid to use his 6-foot-3 frame, landing 23 hits throughout the seven-game series against the Bruins. He was in the middle of scrums, sticking up for teammates, including one of the best exchanges of the series when he stuck up for Morgan Rielly and tried to get David Pastrnak to drop the mitts:
It was a new side to Knies that Leafs fans hadn’t necessarily been exposed to before and it was a side of him his teammates loved to see. Jake McCabe and John Tavares both commented on Knies’ game to Mark Masters of TSN and had this to say during the first-round series:
“He’s been a force to be reckoned with. I always tell him he’s the strongest guy on the ice. He’s 21-years-old & he’s an absolute horse out there” – McCabe
“Has really started to come on here for us” – Tavares
A 21-year-old horse who is only going to get stronger and harder to deal with for opponents. The exchange with Pastrnak was one of the many ‘moments’ Knies had throughout the seven-game series. His biggest one, of course, was his overtime winner in Game 5 in Boston to fend off elimination for the Maple Leafs. It was such a heady play to follow Tavares to the net and take advantage of the Bruins puck-watching and not paying attention to the trailer. It also happened to be a historic goal for the franchise as Knies became the sixth youngest player in franchise history to score an overtime winner:
Knies can really do it all. His combination of size and speed throws off opponents, he doesn’t shy away from contact or mucking it up in the dirty areas of the ice, he can play in all situations and did I mention he’s 21 years old? He has some excellent leadership qualities for his age, and the possibility of him donning a letter one day is certainly not out of the question. His work ethic is perfect for leading by example and he’s shown a lot of character on and off the ice that great leaders possess. We’ll have to wait and see how it all plays out down the road.
When it comes to next season, Knies should be slotted in on at second-line left-wing and let him enjoy a full season getting top-six minutes and some power-play time. If the Maple Leafs don’t re-sign Tyler Bertuzzi, Knies could find himself getting first-line minutes alongside Auston Matthews and an absolute mystery on the other side at this point. Bertuzzi wants to stick around, and so does Max Domi, but their price tags are going to determine their futures as Maple Leafs. Brad Treliving has $18.5 million in cap space to work with, however, he needs to lock down a goaltending partner for Joseph Woll and look at re-signing Domi and Bertuzzi, but also try to figure out potential extensions with a number of players on their free agent list including Joel Edmundson, Timothy Liljegren, Ilya Lyubushkin, and Connor Dewar.
Knies is going to be a great mentor for youngsters Fraser Minten and Easton Cowan next season who can look to him for advice and how he handled playing in his first full season. He’s primed to make a huge leap next season and use his playoff performance to grow and continue to develop into an impact player for the Maple Leafs. Keefe or not, whoever is coaching behind the bench in Toronto next season, better get ready to give Knies a much bigger role on this team.

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