NHL Prospect Profile: Spencer Knight

Spencer Knight of the U.S. NTDP’s U18 Team is a towering and highly athletic goaltender eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft. Incredibly intelligent, Knight could very well be this year’s top draft eligible netminder.

– Spencer Knight –

USA Hockey’s NTDP | Goaltender | 2019 NHL Draft Eligible

Stamford, Connecticut | Apr. 19th, 2001 | 6-foot-3, 200-pounds

The United States National Team Development Program’s U18 Team is one of the deepest and strongest in recent history.

Boasting upwards of seven potential first rounds picks in the 2019 NHL Draft and led by an elite centre in Jack Hughes, USA’s U18 Team is a force to be reckoned with which will surely contribute to the country’s 2019 World Junior Championship roster as well. However, perhaps no player is of greater importance to the success of the NTDP’s U18 Team in 2018-19 than goaltender Spencer Knight.

Of impressive size, athleticism, and intelligence, Knight could very well be the first goaltender selected come the 2019 NHL Draft, and in the first round to boot.

Strengths:

  • Athleticism
  • Positioning
  • Composure
  • Intelligence

Knight truly does bring a comprehensive and remarkably effective game to his crease on a nightly basis.

For Knight, the foundation of his game is his impressive athleticism, stellar positioning, and downright superior intelligence in-goal. A natural athlete who is as strong and agile as they come, Knight is a force in his net who can fight through traffic to see loose pucks as well as battle hard to control loose rebounds around his crease.

What’s more is that Knight is always in the right position to make his saves. Given his 6-foot-3 and almost 200-pound frame, Knight is an intimidating presence in the crease who naturally reduces shooting angles owing to his size. However, what separates Knight from his competition is his ability to maneuver post-to-post within his goal with immense speed before anchoring himself in seemingly perfect positions to face incoming shots — all of which he accomplishes with remarkable consistency.

Related: 2019 NHL Draft Rankings

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, there is Knight’s on-ice intelligence. Already one of the strongest and best-positioned goaltenders available in the 2019 NHL Draft, Knight also happens to be one of the most intelligent. Capable of reading the play before it unravels and reacting before his opponents can blast the puck on-goal, Knight’s innate and unique ability to predict plays allows him to stand one step ahead of his attackers at all times.

Weaknesses:

  • Reaction Efficiency
  • Poise

Although he is an exceptional athlete and star-goaltender in the making, Knight would do well to better conserve his energy and refine his mobility within his the crease.

Somewhat uncontrolled at times and too explosive owing to his raw strength, Knight can at times over-react to particular plays — and especially those which force him to traverse his crease with speed and power. These un-refined movements not only dent Knight’s energy level but force him to overplay his position as well — a reality which can lead to tap in goals for his opposition.

Throughout the 2018-19 campaign, Knight would do well to improve his poise and composure in-goal. Much like Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens, it would serve Knight extremely well to focus on playing a quiet yet tactile game in goal, and one which will allow him to better retain his positioning and utilize his significant size to his advantage.

Future Potential:

Ultimately, Knight could prove to be the most consistent and effective goaltender eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft.

Likely to be chosen in the first-round of the event, Knight has all the makings of a starting goaltender at the NHL-level and one who could come to be considered as elite if able to further refine his already impressive game. Committed to Boston College for the 2019-20 season, Knight’s ascension to the NCAA-level and his resulting play in the years ahead will speak volumes with regards to his ultimate potential in the NHL.

In short, Knight could very well be the best goaltender available within this year’s draft class. With great size, incredible athleticism, and the drive necessary to succeed on a nightly basis, Knight won’t last long come draft day.

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NHL Prospect Profile: Alex Turcotte

Alex Turcotte has often fallen into the shadows of Jack Hughes, but make no mistake, Turcotte is a smart, playmaking center who can be trusted in the defensive zone as well. There aren’t many flaws to this prospect’s game.

– Alex Turcotte –

USA Hockey’s NTDP | Center | 2019 NHL Draft Eligible

Walled Lake, Michigan, USA | February 26, 2001 | 5-foot-11, 194-pounds

Alex Turcotte has been able to fly under the radar of the 2019 NHL Draft as a result of being slotted behind Jack Hughes as the team’s second center. However, scouts took notice of Turcotte during the 2017-18 season, where he tallied eight goals and 32 points in 31 games with the U17 squad in USHL action.

Turcotte is a phenomenal skater who can burn opponents at both ends of the ice. He is a responsible center who is trusted by his coaches in all situations. A pass-first player, Turcotte is an elite playmaker who can create time and space for his teammates or set the up for tap-in goals.

Strengths:

  • Hockey Sense
  • Skating
  • Playmaking

Alex Turcotte is the ideal player to fit the new era of NHL style; skating, smarts, and vision. He sees the ice as well as anyone and can hold on or cycle the puck with ease to create time for his teammates. Turcotte can dictate the pace of the game through his ability to read developing plays and the acceleration and agility to turn on the jets instantaneously.

Alex Turcotte is regarded as a two-way center, but his dynamic playmaking abilities can often go underrated. Photo Credit – Rena Laverty and USA Hockey’s NTDP

The aforementioned skills allow Turcotte to be an excellent playmaker. He can find passing lanes through traffic with ease or skate his way into an area that creates passing options for himself. Not to mention, his defensive awareness is spectacular. Turcotte’s smarts extend into his own end to break up passes and force turnovers regularly.

Weaknesses:

  • Shot

Alex Turcotte is a playmaker by heart for a reason. His shot won’t blow goaltenders away with its power, nor catch them off-guard with a quick release. It’s likely as a result of this fact that Turcotte has had to prioritize his role as an exemplary passer.

In fact, Turcotte’s shot may be the only aspect of his game that precludes him from being a top-five or even top-three pick at the 2019 NHL Draft. There are so many gifted goal scorers in the upcoming draft class that teams may opt for scoring touch over playmaking talent. With that said, if Turcotte can improve upon his goal totals in 2018-19, we could see his draft stock skyrocket quickly.

Future Potential:

Alex Turcotte forecasts as a top-six center at the NHL level. His offensive abilities can often go underrated as a result of his impressive two-way play, but Turcotte has all the skills to be a point-producer at the next level. Comparables include Ryan Johansen and Paul Stastny. Turcotte projects to be a Top-10 pick at the 2019 NHL Draft entering his U18 campaign.

NHL Prospect Profile: Jack Hughes

Jack Hughes will, in all likelihood, be made the first overall selection in the 2019 NHL Draft. Heck, he’s drawn comparisons to Patrick Kane at the age of 17.

– Jack Hughes –

USA Hockey’s NTDP | Center | 2019 NHL Draft Eligible

Orlando, Florida | May 14, 2001 | 5-foot-10, 161-pounds

Jack Hughes enters the 2018-19 season as the consensus 1st overall pick for the 2019 NHL Draft. The 17-year-old center broke all kinds of NTDP records as a U17 player during the ’17-18 campaign, running up 40 goals and 116 points in 60 games, 36 of which came with the U18 team as an underaged player.

For comparison sake, Hughes’ point total fell just one short of the all-time NTDP record, which was set by none other than Auston Matthews during his second year with the program in 2014-15. Hughes appears to be set to annihilate the competition this year, where he will play both USHL and NCAA opponents, and will likely be a large part of USA’s U20 World Junior squad come December.

Strengths:

  • Hockey Sense
  • Skating
  • Playmaking

Jack Hughes is, simply put, a dynamic player who can dictate the game in any shift. He understands the game incredibly well for a 17-year-old, visibly outthinking his opponents and articulating the best play available before it develops. His skating is is exceptional, with the ability to blow by opponents as well as the elusiveness to cut in and out, and edgework that is second-to-none.

Jack Hughes have quickly become the runaway favourite to go 1st overall at the 2019 NHL Draft. Photo Credit – Rena Laverty and USA Hockey’s NTDP

Putting those two attributes together results in an exemplary playmaker. Hughes utilizes his vision of the ice to understand when and where a lane will open up, and combines his skating abilities to maximize the output of his teammates. He can pull defenders towards him before setting up a wide-open teammate, or go to a quiet area with the puck before threading a pass through traffic.

Weaknesses:

  • Strength

It’s not an easy task to outline Hughes’ weaknesses, because there are seemingly none in his game. The one category that could use some improvement would be his strength. By no means is Hughes a towering center, but he certainly plays bigger than his size would indicate. His strength doesn’t hold him back in any manner at the NTDP level, but in preparing for the NHL, Hughes would be wise to add some muscle.

As a center, he definitely needs it to become reliable in the faceoff circle, in boxing out the opposing center from his own net-front, and to improve in board battles. Again, this is not necessarily a weakness as much as it is an area for potential improvement.

Future Potential:

Jack Hughes forecasts to be a dynamic, point producing, first-line center in the NHL. He possesses all the tools to be a game-changer at the next level and should become a perennial all-star in just a few years. Comparables  include Patrick Kane and Clayton Keller. Hughes ranks as the consensus 1st overall pick for the 2019 NHL Draft heading into the ’18-19 season.