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Matthew Knies’ versatility will come in handy during Stanley Cup Playoffs

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Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Shane Seney
2 months ago
The Toronto Maple Leafs have a ton of internal competition among their forwards with the Stanley Cup Playoffs just around the corner, meaning youngster Matthew Knies could eventually be pushed down to the fourth line, a spot in the lineup he’s not necessarily familiar with. Not to worry, he’ll find a way to be effective.
Knies has recently found himself on the new formed ‘Kid Line’ with Pontus Holmberg and Nick Robertson and the results have been positive offensively, however due to some defensive deficiencies and the likes of Mitch Marner and eventually Calle Jarnkrok coming back, there’s a very good chance this line could be blown up, with Knies being pushed down and Robertson potentially sent to the press box.
Sheldon Keefe’s facing a ton of pressure to get the lineup set up for maximum success. With just seven games left on the Maple Leafs schedule and only a few practices scattered throughout the next couple weeks, everyone is on the edge of their seat waiting to see how things play out up front. Toronto’s in a great spot with their forward depth.

Knies Can Play Throughout Entire Lineup

With Tyler Bertuzzi, Bobby McMann, Max Domi, Marner and William Nylander all ahead of Knies on the depth chart and with Jarnkrok on his way back, one of Keefe’s most trusted players, Knies could start the postseason on a line with David Kampf and one of Connor Dewar, Robertson or Ryan Reaves. Offense won’t be necessarily on the agenda, but Knies is going to need to use his big frame, get in fast and furious on the forecheck and use his speed and puck retrieval skills to ensure he keeps the puck out of his own net.
Can Knies be effective in a fourth-line role? Absolutely he can. Sure, he’s played 29 more games than Reaves, but it shouldn’t be looked over that Knies leads all Maple Leafs forwards in hits with 156. At 6-foot-3 and almost 200 pounds, he has done a great job in his short tenure in Toronto to not shy away from contact even though he’s still just 21 years old. The same 21-year-old who stands up for his teammates, as he showed recently he’s not afraid to drop the mitts (or “a” mitt, in the case of the video below) if called upon. He stuck up for Holmberg who was absolutely rocked by Florida Panthers towering defenceman Niko Mikkola He wanted to set the tone and didn’t like the hit:
Should an injury occur, Keefe will have no issues moving Knies up the lineup. He’s scored 13 even strength goals this season and one day could be hitting 25-30 on a consistent basis as he continues to develop. As a ‘true’ rookie with just three games of regular season experience last season, Knies showed very well in the playoffs, recording four points in seven games and has turned his first taste into 33 points in 73 games this season. Crazy to think he only has 76 career NHL games under his belt, he doesn’t play like it at all.

Knies Has All the Tools

For what he lacks in experience, Knies makes up for it with a loaded tool box. He’s an above average skater for someone his size, his defensive awareness and stick-lifting abilities aren’t on Auston Matthews’ level quite yet, but you can tell the two train together in the summer time as the similarities shine through more and more each game. He’s rarely on the wrong side of the puck, is uncanny at getting his stick into passing lanes and this two-way focus is something that’s going to propel his career into something special as a Maple Leaf.
Knies has done a great job getting shots off in high-danger areas this season, he’s wrist shot continues to improve and is getting heavier on netminders to handle, and once he figures out how to avoid stick infractions due to being overly aggressive at times, it’s all going to come together for the Maple Leafs winger. He’s also an underrated passer, much like what was on display recently in Buffalo when he feathered a beautiful sauce to Robertson, who flew in for the finish:
While he could easily be an option to play alongside Marner/Matthews on the Leafs top line, as the lineup is currently constructed, Knies could be asked to continue his bottom-six role, and even though he may be asked to play just 10-12 minutes a game come playoff time you can expect him to be one of the Maple Leafs’ most complete forwards, who can influence the game with his physicality and being steady on both sides of the puck.

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