2020-21 Team: Tri-City Storm (USHL)
Date of Birth: October 17, 2002
Place of Birth: Phoenix, Arizona
Ht: 6-foot-3 Wt: 205 pounds
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2021 first-year eligible
- NHL Central Scouting: 37th (amongst NA skaters)
- Bob McKenzie (TSN): 59th
- Peter Baracchini (THW): 56th
- Andrew Forbes (THW): 58th
- Matthew Zator (THW): 69th
- Future Considerations: 76th
- DobberProspects: 58th
- HockeyProspect.com: 17th
Matthew Knies has been a difficult prospect to pin down. Last season, he was one of the hottest rookies on the Tri-City Storm in the United States Hockey League (USHL), scoring 14 goals and 45 points in 44 games. It was the fourth-highest point total of all under-18s in 2019-20, placing him above first-round hopefuls Owen Power, Matthew Coronato, and Sasha Pastujov. Knies was right in the mix and seemed destined to take the USHL by storm in 2020-21.
Related: 2021 NHL Draft Guide
But that never happened. While Coronato, Power, and Pastujov cemented their place in the conversation for the 2021 first round, Knies was struggling to maintain his rookie pace despite being given a bigger role on the team and a leadership position. In 44 games, he put up 17 goals but only 42 points, an unexpected dip from his previous season’s totals, and he started to slip down the 2021 rankings. It’s led scouts to wonder about the young winger’s potential and the likelihood he will make the NHL.
There’s a lot to like about Knies’ game. He has outstanding creativity and puck handling skills. He will try almost anything if there’s a chance that he’ll either end up with the puck or create enough space to move it to a teammate. Although the Storm were eliminated early from the playoffs, Knies led the team with four points in three games. He’s also great at using his size to protect the puck, and he’ll often go to the corners or be in traffic, fighting for the puck. There’s a reckless determination to his game that can lead to great scoring chances like the one shown below.
However, Knies’ creativity might also be his downfall. Often, the big winger will try to do too much or take unnecessary risks to maintain possession, which ends in a turnover. He also doesn’t have the most speed, and though it’s far from the worst, it limits his ability to chase down the puck when he loses it. Defensively, he is also lacking, which doesn’t help if he’s causing too many turnovers.
Finally, there’s the issue of consistency. Knies got off to a slow start in 2020-21, putting up two points in his first eight games and 20 points in his first 30, before kicking things into high gear late in the season and going on an 11-goal, 20-point tear over the last 11 games. It’s what makes scouts nervous about his future, largely because there doesn’t seem to be an explanation for it; it could have been the loss of his teammate and Colorado Avalanche pick Colby Ambrosio, who left for Boston College this season, or the switch to divisional play, or even just the long gap between seasons, but none of those reasons seem satisfactory.
Yet, the talent is still there. Knies is a very smart, heads-up player who uses his strong vision to find and execute smart passes. He also can drive the play and handle passes through traffic at full speed. While he generally is a pass-first playmaker, he possesses a strong, accurate shot that boosted his goal total this season from 14 to 17, including three multi-goal games. He also improved his all-around game this season and served as an alternate captain on the team. Inconsistency is often the product of inexperience, and hopefully, as he grows into his frame, Knies will become a powerful two-way forward.
Other THW Draft Profiles:
Matthew Knies – NHL Draft Projection
It’s anyone’s guess as to where Knies ends up in the draft – he’s been ranked anywhere from the middle of the first round down to the third. He has the size that scouts love and has been quite productive in the USHL, although some would have preferred he took a bigger step forward in 2020-21. A comparable could be Tyler Kleven, who the Ottawa Senators selected 44th overall last year. He was ranked all over the place, but thanks to his size and relatively high potential, he went high in the second round. Likewise, Knies could end up in a similar spot in the second round.
“Knies is an offensively skilled forward with crafty hands but tends to get overly creative and cause turnovers with the puck. This could be an issue at the next level…He has a strong vision and passing abilities, getting the puck to dangerous areas on the ice.” Clare McManus, Dobberprospects
“His impressive vision and willingness to take risks combine for high-danger passing attempts that not only look good, but also create quality scoring chances. Additionally, he is equipped with a powerful and accurate shot, making him a dual threat offensively.” John Gove, The Draft Analyst
“Knies isn’t a guy who is going to go end to end a lot, but he’s a very intelligent forward with size. He can find seams from the perimeter but also has the hard elements in his game to use his frame to win battles and get to the middle third of the offensive zone. His average footspeed is the main drawback in his game in terms of projecting to the NHL level.” Corey Pronman, The Athletic (from ‘The 2021 NHL Draft ranking: Corey Pronman’s top 35 prospects’, The Athletic, 8/10/20)
Under Construction (Improvements to Make)
Knies is committed to the University of Minnesota next season, which should help him iron out many of his inconsistencies. However, even if he does emerge as a top-line threat along with fellow commit and 2021 draft prospect Chaz Lucius, it’s unlikely he ever becomes that in the NHL. Instead, expect him to be a talented middle-six winger who could slide into both the power play and penalty kill.
Risk – 3/5, Reward – 3/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential
Offence – 6/10, Defense – 5/10
Last season, Knies was named to the All-Rookie Team after his point-per-game performance and was named USHL forward of the week at the end of Dec 2019. His success caught the eye of USA Hockey, who invited him and fellow 2021 draft-eligible prospect Matthew Beniers to their U20 World Junior A Challenge, where his team won a bronze medal.
- USA Hockey – Following His Brother’s Footsteps, Matthew Knies Is Also Thriving From Phoenix to the USHL