We have reached an interesting part of the season for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
After months of talking about the defense, the goaltending and the second line, the main issue on everyone’s mind is on a 19-year-old kid from Arizona and whether he’ll sign his entry level contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs now that the Minnesota Golden Gophers’ season is over.
In his final game of his freshman season, Knies scored Minnesota’s lone goal in a 5-1 loss to Minnesota State.
Toronto Maple Leafs and Matthew Knies
Now? I’m not so sure. Though we will be getting a decision here very soon, per TSN’s Darren Dreger:
Meeting Kyle Dubas in person looks encouraging, but I’ve learned to not get my hopes up when a player meets with a GM.
So let’s play a game here. What if Knies doesn’t sign his entry-level-contract to join the Leafs as they embark on what will hopefully be a long and fruitful playoff run?
Is it the end of the world? Is Matthew Knies a bust? Does he even want to be a Toronto Maple Leaf?
No, no, and will you please relax? There’s a lot of thought that needs to go into decisions like these. There’s no going back to college after you commit to the NHL. I don’t blame Knies for wanting to be sure before making a decision.
The Leafs aren’t in a dire need of forwards. Nick Robertson couldn’t cement a role in the top 6 or the bottom six and he’s with the Marlies now, where he’ll probably sit for the rest of the season.
Nick Abruzzese is fighting for minutes with Kyle Clifford and Wayne Simmonds. There’s about 14 forwards on the Leafs that can suit up any given night and Knies would only make that room more crowded.
Knies has to compete with Ilya Mikheyev, Alex Kerfoot, William Nylander, Pierre Engvall, Nick Abruzzese, and Jason Spezza for minutes down the stretch. Knies has talent, but beating out experienced NHL guys and another rookie who’s been there longer than you is a a lot for a 19-year old.
The likelihood of Knies being the difference-maker between a Leafs Stanley Cup and another early round exit isn’t high, nor should it be. The Leafs as they’re currently constructed don’t need him. He would be a luxury. He would be a darn good one, but still a luxury.
Burning the first year of Knies’ ELC might not be worth it if he only gets limited amount of minutes down the stretch on the fourth line. Stashing him with the Marlies would help with that, but I doubt Knies wants to do that. Riding the bus in the minors isn’t very appealing after you just made it to the Frozen Four.
Matthew Knies is going to be a stud in the NHL someday, but calling him up now might not be his time, as is the case for Robertson and Abruzzese. He’s got the size and the skill to be a top-six forward on the Toronto Maple Leafs.
If he doesn’t sign, he’s in very good hands at Minnesota. They’re going to have a very different team next year and Knies will be getting top line minutes if he stays. He’d be getting more experience being dominant at the college level before being asked to play in the hockey capital of the world.
Toronto’s cup hopes do not hinge on Matthew Knies’ decision. If they did, they wouldn’t deserve to win a round let alone the greatest trophy in sports.