Leafs prospect viewed as an underdog in the pre-season Calder Trophy projections

Ryan Smitheram
September 5, 2023  (2:13 PM)

As we near the start of training camp for the upcoming season, the favourites for all of the individual hardware are being picked through by writers everywhere. The Athletic's Scott Wheeler dove into the top-20 candidates that are in contention for the Calder Trophy, which is awarded to the NHL's Rookie of the Year and to no one's surprise, first overall pick Connor Bedard tops the list. One surprise however, is where Leaf prospect Matthew Knies is found on the list. Wheeler has listed him comfortably inside the top-10 at number but not among the top-5, despite his impressive, albeit limited run as a Leaf at the end of last season and in the playoffs. Wheeler ranked Knies at #8.

While Knies is ranked in the top-10, Wheeler notes that the biggest factor for him in the race for the Calder is whether or not he is able to secure a top-six role alongside either John Tavares or Auston Matthews. Tyler Bertuzzi will likely find himself on the Leafs' top line next to Auston Matthews to start the season, meaning Knies will have to battle with another new Leaf for the left wing spot on the second line in Max Domi. Knies won't see the powerplay time like Bedard or even Adam Fantilli, but his ability to produce at 5-on-5 at the University of Minnesota and in his brief stint with the Leafs before being injured in the playoffs should continue this upcoming season.
In three regular season games with the Leafs, Knies registered just 1 point, but did not have the time to even sneak in a single proper practice with the team, as he joined them in the middle of a road trip to end the season. Knies was also able to produce a goal and three assists in 7 playoff games before being injured at the hands of Sam Bennett in Game 2 of the Leafs' second round series against the Florida Panthers.
Given the cap-crunch that the Leafs are in once again, they will need Knies to produce on his entry-level deal and to provide some secondary scoring behind the Core 4. If he can do that, and if he can get into the mix in the top six, he stands a reasonably good chance of finishing the season a lot higher in the Calder race than his 8th place projection.
Leafs prospect viewed as an underdog in the pre-season Calder Trophy projections

Will Matthew Knies end up being a Calder Trophy finalist in 2023-24?

Yes15866.4 %
No7129.8 %
A finalist? He's gonna win it!93.8 %
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