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A probe into Matthew Knies' rookie season turns up a very cool detail


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Mike Armenti
April 9, 2024  (2:41 PM)
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Matthew Knies takes a lap for the Leafs during warmups
Photo credit: NICK TURCHIARO-USA TODAY SPORTS

Last night's win against the Pittsburgh Penguins was a statement game for the Leafs against a very good team, who have amassed at least a point in 9 straight games over their miraculous late season playoff push. A big reason why the Leafs were able to win that game was because of rookie winger Matthew Knies.

Coming into the season, the expectations for Knies were very high after a solid showing in the 2022-23 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Perhaps a little too high, depending on who you ask. A part of the reason why the expectations were so high was that Knies was expected to receive time in the top 6, alongside the Leafs' Core 4 in some combination. As it turned out, he did receive a long look with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner on the top line and some limited action on the team's second line, with John Tavares and William Nylander. Now playing as 3LW next to Pontus Holmberg and William Nylander, Knies seems to have found his sweet spot.
Prior to the start of the 2023-24 season, there were a lot of people throwing around 25G+25A=50 points projections. However, this piece from Maple Leafs Hot Stove's Anthony Petrielli suggested that 29 points was a reasonable projection for Knies. Petrielli also suggested that if Knies could stay healthy, he has a good chance to surpass that point total - and he has done just that.
Knies, through 75 games this season, has amassed 15 goals and 20 assists for a total of 35 points. No, that may not seem like a lot, but for a former 2nd round pick in his first NHL season, it's actually quite promising. This is Knies' first real taste of an 82-game season. It's a grind and not only has Knies found ways to contribute on the scoresheet, but when he's not racking up points, he's staying engaged physically and getting himself into good positions.
The Phoenix, Arizona native has racked up 159 hits in his 75 games so far this season, which leads all Maple Leafs forwards in that category. Pretty impressive from a rookie, but that's Knies' game. He looks to separate guys from the puck along the wall and always grinds hard to come away with the puck. He's added a lot to the Leafs' forward group for that reason alone.
Last night, Knies produced a goal, 2 hits and 10:21 of ice time in the win. Knies' 2nd period tally tied the game at 1-1 and gave the Leafs some life, leading to an early 3rd period goal from Auston Matthews on the power play. The Leafs surrendered the lead at 13:38 when Drew O'Connor beat Ilya Samsonov to tie the game at 2-2, but thankfully for the Leafs, Jake McCabe converted in OT to call the game.
Obviously, with the playoffs coming up, I'm sure Knies will take some rest down the stretch across the final 2 or 3 games, but that can only serve him well, as the playoffs are a different beast. He got a taste last spring, but the hope is that he'll be able to step in this year and be a little more dominant than he was a year ago.
When Knies was knocked out of action by Florida's Sam Bennett last year, the Leafs were noticeably easier to play against after that. This year, you can bet that Knies will be ready to go to war with his teammates and won't be pushed around near as easily with a full year of experience under his belt and a better understanding of what the postseason is like. He'll also have plenty of grit support in Ryan Reaves, Tyler Bertuzzi and Max Domi as well.
The future is bright for Knies in Toronto and, in my opinion, even if he doesn't score another point and finishes the year with 35 points, he'll have done very well for himself in year 1 of his career. He's only going to continue to get better and next year we might see him in that 50-60 point range with yet another year of experience and development on his side. The future is bright for this kid.
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A probe into Matthew Knies' rookie season turns up a very cool detail

Will Matthew Knies end up back on the top six for the Maple Leafs in the playoffs?

Yes16844.1 %
No21355.9 %
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