The Florida Panthers bucked a recent trend of goalies rarely being picked in the first round, selecting highly touted USA Hockey prospect Spencer Knight at 13th overall.
Knight continued a deluge of products of the the U.S. NTDP dominating the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft, as anticipated. Knight’s chances of going in the first round was also pondered by PHT quite a few moons ago.
The Panthers make a ton of sense as a team that would covet Knight. Roberto Luongo‘s NHL career is winding down, to the point that there are questions about him even playing in 2019-20, and James Reimer‘s play has plummeted. Luongo, as you may remember, was part of a very different generation of goalie drafting; he was selected fourth overall in 1997, only for the Islanders to trade him to make room to select Rick DiPietro first overall in 2000. That sentence captured the highs and lows of selecting goalies high in drafts pretty succinctly, eh?
Florida has been rumored to target Sergei Bobrovsky, and with good reason … and that would still make sense if they added Knight. Bobrovsky is 30, so Knight could develop while the Panthers would theoretically enjoy whatever prime years Bob has left.
Assuming, of course, that the Panthers get Bob in free agency.
Drafting Knight, as with any goalie, this high is fascinating. Goalies are already incredibly difficult to predict as fully formed, veteran players with NHL resumes, let alone as teenagers. It’s a lot safer to roll the dice with a skater, particularly a forward. Messing up first-rounders can really set a team back.
Of course, the thing is that when you make a big risk, the rewards could be huge. After all, you’re getting a goalie at a young age, so if Knight is really good, you can get him for a decade-plus, sometimes at a bargain rate. No person on the ice affects a hockey game like a goalie, so if you square that up, you just earned a huge competitive advantage. And few, if any, teams needed Knight like the Panthers do. It doesn’t hurt that Knight is a prospect people are generally impressed by, although others don’t think he’s still worth this considerable risk.
If the Panthers want to consider such a move paying off, they only need to look to their in-state rivals. The Tampa Bay Lightning chose Andrei Vasilevskiy at 19th overall in 2012 NHL Draft, and Vasi just won the Vezina Trophy, while carrying just a $3.5 million cap hit that runs for one more season. That … is the dream, even if he made this face at Kenan Thompson’s sick Lightning burn at the NHL Awards:
It should be fascinating to see how Knight works out for the Panthers, and this is far from the only big moment for Florida this summer; they’re rumored to be aggressively interested in not just Bobrovsky, but also Artemi Panarin.
Overall? I personally like rolling the dice here. We’ll see.