ColoradoAvalanche.com is profiling draft-eligible prospects leading up to the 2019 NHL Draft in Vancouver on June 21-22. Spencer Knight is the No. 1-ranked North American goaltender in NHL Central Scouting's final rankings. The Avalanche has the fourth and 16th overall selections in the first round of the draft.
Spencer Knight is widely regarded as the best goaltender in the 2019 NHL Draft.
The 6-foot-4, 193-pound keeper topped NHL Central Scouting's mid-term rankings among North American netminders in the winter and held that No. 1 spot again when the final list came out in the spring.
"I think he's on the top of everyone's (goalie) list," said Colorado Avalanche director of amateur scouting Alan Hepple, whose team has two first-round picks in 2019. "We'll have to see what is available."
The Darien, Connecticut, native has been consistent during his time at the U.S. National Team Development Program. During the 2017-18 season, Knight had a .915 save percentage in 25 games while playing for the Under-17 Team and posted a .903 save percentage playing in 14 games while up an age group with the U-18 squad.
Knight finished his 2018-19 campaign with Team USA's Under-18 Team with a .913 save percentage and 2.36 goals-against average.
In tournament play, Knight raised the bar of his game. He led all goaltenders in save percentage (.936) and goals-against average (1.51) while winning the bronze medal with the United States at the 2019 IIHF U18 World Championship. He was also a member of USA's gold medal-winning team at the 2017 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge and silver medal-winning squad at the 2018 under-18 World Championship.
"If you have to win four of seven games (in the playoffs), Spencer has the perfect mentality to do that," said USA NTDP under-18 head coach John Wroblewski to NHL.com "He's able to take an outing where it didn't go perfect but adjust, not get too high on his good days or too low on the bad days. He's world-class and kind of a freak with his athleticism."
Knight broke the record for career victories with the NTDP as he finished his two seasons with 59 wins in 78 games.
Video: Goalie Spencer Knight before the 2019 NHL Draft
Before he was competing at the Team USA program in Plymouth, Michigan, Knight spent 2016-17 at Avon Old Farms School--an all-boys boarding school near Hartford, Connecticut--where he posted a .935 save percentage and 1.89 goals-against average in 22 games.
Stanley Cup-winning goaltender Jonathan Quick, another Connecticut native, also attended the school from 2002-2005.
However, Knight reminds NHL Central Scouting's Al Jensen of a different NHL netminder.
"He reminds me of Carey Price with how very calm and poised he is," Jensen said. "He just has that presence in the net like a veteran. I remember watching Carey his underage year, and the way [Knight] plays and his development at this stage is where I see him."
The first goaltender selected in the 2018 NHL Draft wasn't until the second round when the New York Rangers selected Swede Olof Lindbom at 39th overall.
Knight is expected to be picked in the first round of the draft when it opens on Friday.
"It's very hard to find a generational goalie," Wroblewski said. "But I think Spencer is very unique mentally and physically to be able to persevere in the National Hockey League."
The 18-year-old also stood out to scouts off the ice at the 2019 Scouting Combine in June where he placed in the top 15 in eight of the testing categories, which included second in the standing long jump (177 inches), second in the vertical jump from the squat position (18.84 inches) and second in the pro agility run starting from the right (4.32 seconds).
"I've worked with goalies for many years and I don't think I've ever seen a kid so physically and mentally ready for the next level than Spencer," said NTDP goaltending coach Thomas Speer told NHL.com. "I think special is exactly what Spencer is. His ability to stay on his feet and react to plays is what sticks out to me. A lot of guys will slide around and find ways for the puck to hit them, but he's so strong on his edges that he can usually beat the play on his feet and he's always in the spots to make the first and second save."
While his athleticism is impressive, Knight prides his game on his technique and mental approach.
"If you're not feeling good or not confident, you start second-guessing yourself," he said to NHL.com. "Sometimes the shots are coming and if you start thinking a player is going to score before he even shoots, it'll get the best of you. It takes a while to gain that mental stability."
While many see Knight as an already high-end NHL prospect goaltender, he has some more developing to do. He plans on doing that next season at Boston College.
"You have to be patient," Hepple said. "You have to be willing to have some growing pains and things like that."
Jensen said Knight might be worth the wait.
"In my reports on him last season, I made a notation that I haven't seen a goalie like this coming up in a long time," Jensen said.
That notion might also make Knight worthy of a pick in the first round.