Matthew Knies is Set Up for Success in New Role with the Leafs

Elliot Ben Jacob
March 12, 2024  (4:06 PM)

Toronto Maple Leafs' Matthew Knies.
Photo credit: Sportsnet

As the countdown to the NHL playoffs shortens to a mere six weeks, Sheldon Keefe, the coach of the Maple Leafs, is changing up his team dynamics.

His approach involves an evaluation and adjustment of player line-ups, aiming to solidify the most efficient on-ice duos ahead of the playoff matches.

The Impact on Rookie Matthew Knies

An important adjustment by Keefe was the repositioning of the promising rookie, Matthew Knies.
Previously a part of the leading line, Knies was switched to the third line, matching him with David Kämpf and Bobby McMann during a recent game in Montreal. This move, particularly pairing Knies with McMann, has revealed a remarkable synergy between the two, enhancing their on-ice dynamic.

This trio's performance in Montreal was nothing short of outstanding, with their collective effortólead by McMann's scoringócontributing to the team's pressure and strategies. Their ability to challenge the Canadiens' defense was an important factor to their viability and chemistry on the ice.

Perspectives from The Kyper and Bourne Show

During a discussion on Sportsnet 590 The FAN's The Kyper and Bourne Show, analysts Nick Kypreos and Justin Bourne shared their perspectives on Knies' new role. Bourne pointed out the positive aspect of Knies facing less tough opponents on the third line, marking a visible improvement in his gameplay.
"I think Matthew Knies is getting to go against worse competition, taking him out of that top group and letting him play third lines with less pressure, I thought he looked like a different hockey player [on Saturday]." - Bourne on the idea of Knies getting a good long look on the third line«

Kypreos continued on the reduced pressure experienced by Knies in his new position, suggesting that this change allows him more freedom and reduces the expectations to perform at the level of top line players like Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.
"The less pressure of having to keep up or produce or do things right for Matthews and Marner - I think he can relax a little bit more thinking 'I don't have to produce, I don't have to be that man carrying their left side.'" - Kypreos on pressure being taken off Knies when on the third line«
Sam McKee pointed out the opportunities for Knies to handle the puck and take shots, a point made easier by his current line mates, Kämpf and McMann. This shift not only boosts Knies' confidence with the puck but also positions him to improve his ability to score.
"When he's out there with McMann and Kämpf, who are two great players but different types of guys obviously, it's nice for him to be able to be like I've got this puck and I'm going to shoot this puck." - McKee on Matthew Knies likely to see more puck touches and shot attempts on line 3«

A Strategic Move with Promising Outcomes

The decision to place Knies in a line separate from Matthews and Marner seems to be a strategy by Keefe, allowing the young player to explore his own talent in a less pressured environment.
This shift not only benefits Knies in terms of development and performance but also aligns with the Maple Leafs' strategy of optimizing team line ahead of the playoff season. Indications suggest that this could indeed be the most important role for Knies as he continues to evolve in the NHL.