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NHL Draft

Knight rare goalie selected in top 13 of NHL Draft

Panthers choose position for first time, highest since Campbell in 2010

by Kevin Woodley / NHL.com Correspondent

VANCOUVER -- Spencer Knight prides himself on his composure in the crease but admitted it wasn't easy to stay calm after the Florida Panthers selected him with the No. 13 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena on Friday.

"A lot of adrenaline going through the body," Knight said. "When you hear your name called, it's a dream come true. It doesn't seem real almost."

Few goalies these days can dream of being picked in the first round, let alone that high. 

 

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Knight, who played the past two seasons with USA Hockey's National Team Development Program, is the highest drafted goalie since the Dallas Stars selected Jack Campbell with the No. 11 pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, and the first picked inside the top 20 since Andrei Vasilevskiy went No. 19 to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2012 NHL Draft. 

He is the first goalie to be selected by the Panthers in the first round of an NHL Draft.

"Why is it a risk? It's not a risk," Panthers general manager Dale Tallon said. "A lot of guys don't work out, it doesn't matter what position. Not all first rounders make it, but I think this guy is a franchise-type goalie."

Video: Spencer Knight on mentality, joining the Panthers

Knight (6-foot-4, 193 pounds) was No. 1 in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American goalies after he went 32-4-1 with a 2.36 goals-against average, a .913 save percentage and two shutouts in 39 games for the NTDP this season. He set the program record for wins with 59 over two seasons (78 games) and is committed to Boston College next season.

Already praised for an efficient technical game, powerful lateral movement and an ability to make athletic saves, Knight still sees room to improve. 

"I am nowhere near perfect," he said. "For me, a lot of it will be moving less and just trust your angles, and positioning and depth is what I am working on. But I am a good skater and read the play well, like to hold my feet, and I think that's something that could translate well to the NHL."

Knight, 18, wouldn't put a timeline on making the NHL, but Tallon pointed to Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray winning the Stanley Cup at 22 and believes Knight may also be a "rare exception that can play at 21, 22." 

Despite that, drafting Knight won't alter the Panthers plans to be aggressive at the position in free agency this summer. Florida is waiting to hear from 40-year-old Roberto Luongo about his future, and James Reimer has two seasons remaining on his contract.

"This is a long-term plan," Tallon said. "We have to wait until we get the decision from Roberto probably sometime in the near future, so we have to make sure we are protected. It's the most important position and we haven't had a lot depth there."

But Tallon is confident he does now, especially after talking to former Panthers goalie John Vanbiesbrouck when both worked with the United States at the 2019 IIHF World Championship.

"I respect John Vanbiesbrouck, [heck] of a goalie and great person," Tallon said. "He really thought this was a once in a lifetime opportunity if we were able to get a guy like this."

 

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