2019-20 Team: TPS U20 – Jr. A Sm-liiga
Date of Birth: Aug 07, 2002
Place of Birth: Trencin, Slovakia
Ht: 6-foot-0 Wt: 185 pounds
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2020 first-year eligible
- NHL Central Scouting: 42nd (among EU Skaters)
- Josh Bell’s February Rankings: 83rd
- Larry Fisher’s Top 500 Final Rankings: 82nd
- Andrew Forbes Top 217 for March: 64th
- DobberProspects 2020 European Draft Rankings: 31st
In a draft filled with talent, Samuel Knazko stands out as a premier prospect who could be selected outside of the first or second round. As a top-flight offensive-defenseman, he has an incredible toolkit that every team hopes to find in a potential mid-range pick.
Related: 2020 NHL Draft Guide
The most important aspect of Knazko’s game is his skating ability, which is described by many to be among the best in the draft for a defenseman. This, combined with his great hockey instincts, allows him to stay a step ahead of the game and allows him to capitalize on a great pass or a smart shot on goal.
What best showcased Knazko’s ability was his performance with Team Slovakia. While playing in 20 International-Jr. games throughout 2019-20, he posted 3 goals and 8 points, while consistently being one of the best skaters on the ice.
Other THW Draft Profiles:
Samuel Knazko – NHL Draft Projection
As a high-upside, offensive-defenseman with a great skill set, it’s hard to imagine Knazko falling very far in the draft. While he is unlikely to be selected in the first round, it wouldn’t be out of the question for a team to fall in love and select him as early as the mid-second.
There’s always a chance he could slide down the board, but even if that happens, he won’t make it as far as the late third round. Many teams would love to have a prospect with his abilities in their system, especially if they need defensemen.
Kňažko is smart offensive defenseman who has tools to quarterback a power play and be an effective offensive weapon. He is a really solid skater with very good hands, shot and playmaking abilities.Samuel Tirpak – Dobberprosepcts.com
Knazko is an elite skater. He’s so quick and strong on his edges, which gives him the ability to change directions at will. Knazko utilizes *tons* of linear crossovers to gain speed, giving him a massive advantage when carrying the puck.Alexander Taxman – futurescopehockey.com
Good with puck, on break-outs on the power play and with his passing attack to start zone entrances. Calm and mature feel to is game who plays in all situations…Bill Placzek – Draftsite.com
- Incredibly developed skater
- Great hockey IQ
- Has offensive upside
Under Construction (Improvements to Make)
- Not a physical player
- Defensive side of the game needs improvement
While it is always impossible to project how a defenseman will develop, Knazko has the toolkit of an NHL starter. With his skating ability and hockey IQ, he can learn the aspects of the North American game if given time to develop.
With this in mind, the best-case scenario for Knazko would be to grow into a top-four role on the blue line while taking on a power-play quarterback role on the second or even first-string unit. Even if he doesn’t develop to that level, he could become a bottom-pairing defender with limited power-play time, which is far from bad for a potential third-round pick.
Risk – 2/5, Reward – 4/5
If Knazko is selected anywhere in the third round of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, then there is no risk with this pick. He is the exact player you would hope to find in that round, and if he develops his game then he should become a starter.
Related: THW 2020 Mock NHL Draft Round 2
If a franchise falls in love and takes him in the second, however, that could be a bit riskier. Areas of his game still need improvement, and a second-round selection may make expectations for him out of line with where he is at now.
Eugene Helfrick is a Tampa Bay Lightning writer who is actually from Tampa Bay. He has written about the Lightning for six years, covering everything from their run to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, to their crushing first-round exit in 2019, to their redemption in the bubble in 2020. While he is happy to talk about just about anything from cows to cars to video games, hockey will always remain one of his favorite pastimes.