Florida Panthers: Spencer Knight Was the Wrong Pick at the Wrong Time

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA - JUNE 21: Spencer Knight poses for a portrait after being selected thirteenth overall by the Florida Panthers during the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena on June 21, 2019 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images)
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA - JUNE 21: Spencer Knight poses for a portrait after being selected thirteenth overall by the Florida Panthers during the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena on June 21, 2019 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images) /
facebooktwitterreddit

Over the past two drafts, the Florida Panthers have formulated a process that not only made sense but netted them good organizational depth.

Such a philosophy netted the Florida Panthers six of their top 40 rated prospects at the draft last year, according to Chris Pronger.

It’s hard to feel the same way already in 2019 after the Panthers drafted Spencer Knight at 13th overall, which is not only a major risk for a team with other needs, but signals worrying signs for the summer and beyond.

Knight was part of an absolutely loaded USNTDP program this year which had seven other first-round picks and was playing against less than stellar USHL opposition. One would think his numbers would be off the charts, but they’re not.

While Knight certainly possesses all the tools to be a consistent NHL starter, and that is backed up by his reputation, there’s a reason why goalies aren’t drafted this high anymore.

The last goalie drafted in the teens was Andrei Vasilevsky in 2012 at No. 19, and only Jack Campbell was taken earlier, and that was in 2010.

Campbell is now just beginning to find his NHL feet nine years on, and not in Dallas. The days of drafting goalies this high are long gone, even for a talent like Knight, who is widely regarded as one of the best goalie prospects in years because of that ascribed risk and improvements in goalie scouting.

Many draft analyses now take that trend into account, and very few had Knight anywhere near his eventual draft slot on their overall big boards.

Let’s just say that the lighter the shades of blue, and the more orange there is, the lower the draft rankings are for Knight.

For instance, Scott Wheeler of The Athletic had him 45th in his final draft rankings. And if you want your analysis a little more “traditional,” here is this from Corey Pronman, also at The Athletic (paywalled):

"“As a 6-foot-3 goalie with his tools and IQ, he projects to start in the NHL, but his season would give me mild hesitation from tagging him as a no doubt starting goalie. It’s a risk gambling on the goalie here, I wouldn’t have done it, but I knew several NHL teams who felt he was a top 10 player in the draft class.”"

Part of the concern with this pick is that Florida has a glaring need for D in their pipeline, which has again been starved of top-end talent.

If their best D prospect is Max Gildon, their second best could be the seventh-round draft pick from last year, Santtu Kinnunen. Too many of them only have a third pair ceiling at best.

Even though there was an unexpected run on D, options like Ville Heinola, Tobias Bjornfoot and even Cam York and Thomas Harley were all still on the board, and in all cases better value at another position of need.

Florida hasn’t taken a defenseman in the first round since 2014, and just took their first D in the second round since 2013, and it’s starting to show at all levels.

All signs still point to Florida aggressively pursuing Sergei Bobrovsky, which isn’t a surprise. By all accounts, he could be one of the highest paid goalies in the league.

Development time for goalies is longer than the average skater prospect, but even in a shorter timeline of three years for Knight, Bobrovsky will still have four years left on a potential seven-year contract with a top-five goalie cap hit at a bare minimum.

Even in a world with a much higher cap than now, that contract could be difficult to move and will need to be moved if Knight is ready. And at that time, Barkov, Huberdeau, Trocheck, Borgstrom among others will need new and richer deals.

More concerning is what this says about Sam Montembeault, the last goalie the Panthers drafted back in 2015.

His early NHL returns were by no means amazing, but he deserves an opportunity to prove that he can be the guy, even behind Bobrovsky.

Florida is waiting on a decision from Roberto Luongo as to whether he’s going to play next season, and they’re trying to move on from James Reimer, which will hurt them from a cap and/or assets perspective when trying to get out from under that deal.

Does this selection signal that Montembeault’s time is up? What about all of those years of development in junior and Springfield, were they just wasted? If that’s true, why did that happen and it could it happen with Knight?

And while goaltending is certainly a position of need, they could have filled it with any number of later round options that would have filled the same organizational need and been of better value at the same time all around.

Knight will be the starting goalie at Boston College next year and is almost 100% assured to be the goalie for the U.S. at the next World Junior Championships.

He will be facing far tougher competition than he had during his USNTDP career, but won’t be doing it often. BC played 39 games last year, and Knight will be missing some to play at the World Juniors, so he won’t be getting the kind of games he’d get if he played in the OHL, for instance.

He may also not receive the same level of competition, either. BC is also coming off a season in which they finished eight games below .500, so in the short term, he also won’t be playing on a team that will be competing for the Frozen Four unless he carries them there.

The combination of value and need just isn’t there to justify this pick, even though the Panthers do not have to worry about the immediate impact for draft picks at this time.

More from The Rat Trick

Knight could have easily been available later in the first round where the value made more sense, and the Panthers could’ve acquired more picks to use for other needs, such as flipping them for D help or even the bottom six when trading down to get Knight at a better slot.

Can Spencer Knight be a top 10 goalie in the league someday? Perhaps. But in the new NHL, where goalies like Jordan Binnington, Matt Murray, etc. can come out of practically nowhere to win the Stanley Cup, the value on taking a goalie this early is just not there, because there are no sure things at the position anymore.

Considering only one other goalie has been drafted at a higher position this decade, that assertion is only re-enforced. When that is added to the Panthers’ glaring need for a high-end defenseman in the system that wasn’t addressed, and where Knight was taken, this is the wrong pick at the wrong time.

Spencer Knight doesn’t need to be great for the Panthers to be great. But first-round picks should not be used like this, even when you have the luxury to do so.

For a team that has done such a good job of creating a solid process that netted them some solid depth in their prospect pool, this is a stark and worrying departure from it, let alone what it may signify for the goaltending position right now.

Knight has all the tools to succeed. One day, the Panthers will need him to. That day might not be soon, but in the here and now, this is not a good value, it’s not in the area of the most glaring need and it’s a worrying departure from what has worked in the last two drafts.

dark. Next. Florida Select Top-Ranked G Spencer Knight 13th Overall

There’s a time and place for a pick like this, but for the Panthers, this is not the time, nor the place for it.