51Spencer Knight
Photo Credit: Hickling Images/courtesy USHL

Flames 2019 First Round Targets: Spencer Knight

In the history of the Calgary Flames, they’ve selected goaltenders in the first round four times. It hasn’t gone well. But should they consider a netminder at 26th overall, Spencer Knight would be the player they select. Would he be a worthwhile gamble?

Scouting report

In the scouting community, Knight is far and away considered the top goaltender in the 2019 draft class. He’s put together an impressive resume at a young age and been a key component of one of the stronger runs for the U.S. National Development Program in its history.

The Hockey News’ Ryan Kennedy provided an early season update on Knight’s year:

The top netminding prospect in the 2019 draft, Knight has lived up to reputation by going 4-0 with a .955 save percentage for the NTDP so far. The big Boston College commit’s latest gem was a 36-save win over Notre Dame, the third-ranked NCAA team in the nation.

Cam Robinson of Dobber Prospects dug in deep on Knight’s full season with his evaluation:

Knight has continued to be the backbone for The Program. He’s been nearly unbeatable against USHL competition, but it’s his performances against NCAA Division I schools and on the international scene are what have really stood out. His .916 save percentage in 20 USNTDP contests rivals some of the best season-long performance in the history of The Program. He appears to be a lock for the first-round this June with an eye towards being the first goaltender selected in the top-15 since Jack Campbell in 2010. Knight is off to Boston College in the fall.

Steve Kournianos of The Draft Analyst provided another detailed drill-down into Knight’s game:

Easily the most heralded North American goalie prospect since Carey Price some 14 years prior, Knight is looking to buck the draft trend of teams taking goalies no earlier than the late first round. Blessed with size, quickness and an intense desire to succeed, the Connecticut-born backstop who grew up idolizing Jonathan Quick is more stylistically similar to Price and Henrik Lundqvist – cool and calm with noticeable confidence as he makes difficult saves look routine. Knight has strong wrists and is an incredible puck handler, possibly more advanced than Ron Hextall during his draft year and more active than Martin Brodeur was in 1990.

It’s hard to evaluate goaltenders, but those that dare to seem to believe that Knight is the cat’s meow.

The numbers

Knight’s been turning heads for awhile, dating back to his strong performance with the Avon Old Farms prep school as a 15-year-old. The 2018-19 season was his second with the National Development Team and playing against USHL opposition; his save percentage has been pretty consistent between the two seasons, but his goals against average dropped from around 3.00 to around 2.30 between the two seasons.

Compared to other USHL goaltenders, the comparisons are to one other goaltender: Tri-City’s Isaiah Saville. Knight plays for a National Development Team that plays an up-tempo offensive game, and tends to give up strong chances when they do have breakdowns. Saville has slightly strong numbers, but the nature of being goaltender for Team USA may have deflated Knight’s stat line a bit. (And even with that potential deflation, his numbers were strong.)

Availability and fit

We’ll get into the utility of drafting a goaltender in the first round elsewhere. If the Flames want Knight, they’re going to have to hope he slides to them at 26th overall. Most of the major rankings have him going before they pick: ISS has him outside the first round, Dobber Prospects has him 21st, the Draft Analyst/Sporting News has him 21st, my rankings at The Hockey Writers have him 32nd, Sportsnet has him 18th, The Athletic has him 45th (their other ranking is skaters-only), and The Hockey News has him 19th.

The Flames’ goaltending depth beyond the NHL level is weak – it’s very dependent on Tyler Parsons having a bounce-back season and Artyom Zagidulin being the second coming of David Rittich. They probably want to draft one this year to have in the pipeline. Drafting a goaltender early is a gamble, but Knight’s performance in high level hockey thus far should give observers confidence that he can keep moving his development in the right direction.

Well, as much confidence as you can have in a 18-year-old goaltender.

2019 first round targets

Egor Afanasyev | John Beecher | Tobias Björnfot | Bobby Brink | Simon Holmström | Pavel Dorofeyev | Anttoni Honka | Ryan Johnson

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  • drogon

    That would be quite the surprise and you never know with BT being a riverboat gambler. But looking at our recent signings, what happened with Adam Fox, I think we will be more hesitant now at drafting American born players.

    • 🐃💩

      What goalie has Sigalet hurt? The Flames have brought in old, set in their ways, damaged goalies. Elliot, Smith, and Johnson. Rittich improved over his time in Calgary, and Gillies and Parsons were not with Sigalet in Calgary. Very ignorant statement.

      • Cheeky

        No you’re absolutely right chicken lollipop, I don’t know what I’m talking about. Let’s see, all these decent goalies that started playing deep and low in net, while letting high glove side goals in, the prospects who have since diminished since joining organization. If you think Sigalet has nothing to do with our prospects including the farm, well then…He is the head goalie coach and instructs the others to follow a system he wants (staying low to cover bottom of net while leaving top side wide open. Playing deep in net rather than challenge shooter – if you don’t believe me just YouTube some Flames goalies during his stint). Tell me which goalie has been lights out under Sigalet? Rittich is still a debate amongst us fans about his starter status, folks are turning on Parsons and already have on Gillies (both thought highly of). It’s no coincidence that each summer we talk about needing goalies – what is the common denominator – most be each and every goalie right? Also Sigalet decided which goalie starts, that should be a head coach’s call, surprisingly he always goes with the over used veteran (his buddy). We have changed the entire coaching staff except this guy, the position that seems to have the most problem. I’m sure he is a nice guy, prove me a goalie that has succeeded under his tutoring and I’ll never bash him again…

        • The Red Knight

          Who’s turning on parsons? You obvious never played sports ,or never played hard enough to get injured , G all sudden Carey price isn’t as good as he was after injuries definitely sigelets fault !

      • MDG1600

        So who do we blame for the poor goaltending assessment and development? If it isn’t Sigalet please tell me who it is? Flames keep bringing in old set in their ways goalies precisely because their own internal drafting and development of goalies has been so bad. And if Sigalet has nothing to do with developing our young goalies in Stockton and the veterans playing in Calgary don’t need him or listen to him then what are they paying him for? IMHO the facts (Ortio, McDonald, Gillies, Parsons, Schneider) indicate that organizationally the Flames continue to do a very poor job of developing young goalies and they need to improve that area of their organization. Maybe we just need better goalie scouts.

        • 🐃💩

          Gillies and Parsons are developing quite fine. This past season the Heat had basically an ECHL d-core. To blame Sigalet for them not being bonafide NHL studs over night is ridiculous. Schneider is also slowly developing into an ok goalie, maybe it’s the scouting. Ortio was never anything special and MacDonald should have never been drafted. Button is the constant in all of the above. His scoutingng department is terrible.

          • 🐃💩

            I also remember SF commenting on the weak dcore. Carey Price had a rough start to the season as well. Your points are not convincing to me. Gillies was signed to a 1 way for this season for a reason. I hope the Flames give the ball to Gillies and Rittich.

          • everton fc

            I have to disagree – cordially, of course! Gillies had a poor season – even Stockton’s Finest reported that much, and he saw him play often. Parsons is up and down like a yo-yo. I think McDonald was the most improved goalie we had in the minors, and he was in the ECHL.

  • freethe flames

    Before we talk hockey let’s take a minute and remember all those who stormed the beaches of Normandy 75 years ago. Lets also take a minute to thank all those who serve in the various military forces who defend our liberty so that we can B/S about trivial things like hockey.

    • The Red Knight

      Why stop there let’s got back a tiny bit further and thx all those who stormed this continent and took it by genicide. 👏🏻👏🏻. Funny how some decide when history starts , where do you think hitler learnt what a concentration camp even was , it happened in this continent first ! Slavery etc ,anyways I took a minute to reflect now back to hockey lol

      • Keith M

        You are simply clueless Red Knight, some advice for a young person such as yourself, sometimes it’s best to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.

      • freethe flames

        Many FNMI served and serve in the military and you dis-honor them with this rant. It does no one any good in what will be a long journey to reconciliation to dishonor others.

        • The Red Knight

          If you don’t know your own history then your the ones that are clueless, unless you are trying to rewrite history,I’m simply stating the facts ! Prove me wrong …….. oh yeah that’s right you can’t . Now move along little fella , anyways back to hockey , I’d be stoked if we drafted Knight , I still think parsons is gonna turn it around too.

      • canadian1967

        Slavery and War/Genocide all started LONG before recorded history.
        Humans have been conquering and enslaving each other since they came into existence. Those things most definitely even predate Humanity and occurred in the times of the Neanderthals amongst other subspecies.
        If you want to feel sorry for yourself, that’s fine, but every single Human on Earth can point to a time in the last several thousand years where their forebears were victims of Slavery or War. EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US.

        • The Red Knight

          Yeah budds exactly what I’m saying, it would e like saying Christian s have no blood on there hands and they all stayed home . But hey we got Basketball and team Canada from it !lol But let’s draft that goalie ! I like a good truthful Knight ! . 😉

        • The Red Knight

          Ahhh come on there cheeky you can do better than that ? I’m just reflecting on actual history. Truth hurts for some I guess, it’s funny how we forget the little things huh ? did I ruffle your chicken feathers ?

  • Off the wall

    We need to draft RW’s. We are hurting in that position for years now.

    Here’s our current right- shooting RW depth.
    Lindholm, Czarnik, Ryan, Lazar and Hathaway. See a problem here?

    In Stockton, we have Gawdin, Phillips, Buddy Robinson, Peluso, McCaron and Foo( who’s probably gone)

    I hope this draft, we start with needs, the most glaring one besides a goalie is RW depth!

  • freethe flames

    Drafting a goaltender in the first round has been a nightmare for the Flames and for that reason alone I suspect we would pass. I also don’t think he will be available then. Reading the draft list though continues to make me wish that BT could add some picks. As with many the next two weeks can’t go fast enough. I would love to some actual news prior to the draft though.

  • Baalzamon

    Easily the most heralded North American goalie prospect since Carey Price some 14 years prior

    This is odd to me. Anyone interested on the topic should go and take a gander at John Gibson’s results with USNTDP.

    If ever there was a goalie who should have gone in the first round, it was him.

    Anyway, Knight had a fantastic season… aside from an extended cold streak in February/March.

    • FLT

      I noticed that too Baalz. Sensationalism sells at this time of year, and it doesn’t need to be realistic. I’m sure he’s a very good goalie, but I’m also sure you could find similar gushing about the top prospects in previous years.

  • Longshot1977

    I really like this. While I understand the hesitation to take a ‘tender early in the draft, he fits an organizational need, and honestly has the potential to be a gamechanger for years to come.

    Of course, there is a decent chance that Knight isn’t around when the Flames pick. If he is, I’d be very tempted.

  • idbr

    As far as taking a risk on a goalie goes he seems like a good bet. In addition to the information in the article he was top five in six categories at the NHL combine. If he was available to us I would consider taking him.

  • Flamesforever

    If he falls to us at 26 we absolutely have to take him. I know goaltending is voodoo.. but Knight is as close to a sure thing as you can get. Imagine if he becomes anything like Price.

  • Jobu

    Seems like the type of goalie you might gamble a first rounder on but he’d be the goalie for the Flames next window (when hes 27)… I assume that Treliving will be focused on winning in this window still.