Panthers get Stanley Cup winning coach Joel Quenneville
The Florida Panthers are bucking the trend with the 13th overall pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.
Florida’s selection of goaltender Spencer Knight marks the first time since the Los Angeles Kings’ 2010 pick of Jack Campbell that a netminder’s been drafted within the top-15.
It’s a bold move considering that there have only been 64 first-round selections used on goalies compared to 799 used on forwards and 401 on defensemen since the inception of the draft.
There are many special moments in a player’s career, but it’s obvious that this day will stand out among the others for Knight.
“Hearing your name called is a dream come true,” Knight said. “It doesn’t seem real, almost. Growing up it’s all you dream of.”
The Stamford native sported a sparkling 32-4-1 record, 2.36 goals against average and a .913 save percentage — including two shutouts for the United States National Team Development program.
His impressive season was capped off by a tournament-best 1.56 goals against average and .936 save percentage over six games as the United States’ starter en route to a bronze medal at the U18 World Junior Championships.
Standing at 6-4, Knight boasts an athletic frame, excellent anticipation and unflappable calmness between the pipes.
His adaptability has been touted as one of his strongest assets as he looked impressive playing in a variety of competition levels including USHL hockey, NCAA exhibition games and international tournaments.
“He’s mobile, he’s confident,” Panthers general manager Dale Tallon said. “He’s very calm in the net, nothing bothers him … He’s just a great athlete and plays the position extremely well … Goaltenders like this rarely come along.”
But what really makes Knight special is his unparalleled puck moving ability as a goalie.
“He’s gonna be like a third defenseman back there,” Tallon said. “His ability to read plays and move the puck [is impressive], especially with the way the game is played today.”
As far as joining the Panthers’ organization, the 18-year-old had nothing but good things to say.
“They’re all great people, great staff. We had a lot of good conversations and made a good connection. Going into the draft, I had no expectations as to where I was going to go. I’m happy to be here, though.”
Knight’s selection fills a positional need for a Panthers team that has struggled in getting consistently goaltending — an issue that’s become exacerbated with 40-year-old goalie Roberto Luongo’s uncertain future. But the Panthers are confident that Knight was the best player available regardless.
This selection breaks a trend as previous to this the Panthers had selected a forward within the first two rounds with seven consecutive picks.
Interestingly, that non-forward pick was also a goalie as Samuel Montembeault was brought in with a third round pick in 2015. Knight’s pick is the first time in franchise history that the Panthers have taken a goalie in the first round.
“First-round picks you usually get the best player and we felt he was first a need,” Tallon said. “With the possibility of things happening for us in the next couple of weeks, we felt that along with [Samuel ] Montembeault, we needed to add depth to that position and now we’re very confident.”
Goaltenders typically take a longer time than skaters to develop and when asked about a timeline for graduating to the NHL, Knight maintained that he’s only focused on the present.
“I’m just going to take it year by year and not try to get ahead of myself. I’m trying to develop and focus on the now instead of looking down the road,” knight said.
Both the Panthers and Knight must be confident in the next step as the young netminder will take his talents to Boston College for 2019-20. Boston College has orchestrated the successful development of marque goalies including Cory Schneider and Thatcher Demko.