If you read my draft preview, you know that I don’t like discussing individual prospects because I don’t have the required knowledge to give you an opinion I feel is worth publishing as worthy of your time. So because of that, I will talk about how I feel about what the Panthers did in the 1st round by drafting goaltender Spencer Knight at 13th overall on Friday night and a little bit about what they did the rest of the draft. There is no doubt that drafting a goalie in the 1st round is a huge risk, but if the gamble pays off, we can look forward to elite tier goal-tending for the next 15+ years. So let’s dive right in.
Why I Like the Pick
First, as a fellow goalie, I love having elite goalies on the roster. The Panthers taking a chance on a guy who has been said to be the most athletic player in the draft, it gets me excited. Interesting quirk, for as good of a history as the Florida Panthers have had with goalies, they have never drafted and developed their own goalie. Hopefully Knight is the first.
Knight has been called the most athletic player in the entire draft regardless of position. When they put up a graphic of his strengths and weaknesses, the weaknesses category said none. According to the experts, he’s the best goalie prospect since Carey Price. You know Carey Price, the guy that has been the best goalie in the NHL for almost a decade? If Knight comes anywhere close to meeting those lofty comparisons, Dale Tallon will look like a genius.
Want another reason to love this pick? His childhood nickname was Squidward and he still pays homage to that nickname on his mask. Come on millennial generation, the Panthers just drafted a guy who puts a SpongeBob character on his helmet. How can you not love it?
Spencer "Squidward" Knight 😂🦑#NHLDraft pic.twitter.com/D2yfEcSaC9
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) June 22, 2019
Also, how can you not love all the “Knight” puns we can come up with after great games?
There is a lot to be excited about with this pick. The game may have changed and teams are refraining from picking goalies high in the draft, but like I said in my draft preview, always shoot for the moon with your draft picks. This absolutely does that. The Panthers went for the elite talent with this pick and I respect them for having the conviction in Knight to buck convection.
One other reason I like the pick is because they didn’t reach on a defenseman. As always happens in the draft, once the run on defenseman starts, teams start to panic and move up. The Arizona Coyotes were this year’s example. Thinking they needed to jump the Panthers, they traded a 2nd round pick to move from 14th to 11th in order to draft Swedish defenseman Victor Soderstrom. The Detroit Red Wings drafted German defenseman Moritz Seider at 6th overall even though he wasn’t expected to go earlier then 13th to the Panthers. They didn’t want to risk moving down so they over-drafted Seider. So when the Panthers picked at 13, the next best defenseman was ranked in the 20s according to the experts. Knight was a consensus top 15 prospect and would have been a top 5 prospect if this draft took place 15 years ago.
Yes, the pick was a risk, but all draft picks come with risk. This one also comes with massive upside. Picture 3-5 years down the road, Bobrovsky (knock on wood) as the #1 with potentially the best young goalie in the NHL as the #2 being able to play 25-30 games to keep Bobrovksy fresh. Then eventually as Bobrovksy reaches the end of his deal, those roles reverse. That’s essentially what the Predators have right now with Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Tallon used them as the inspiration for this pick. This pick was the definition of go big or go home. All we can do is hope that the Panthers hit jackpot.
Why I Don’t Like the Pick
This pick was met with a lot of surprise and a little bit of anger from a lot of Panthers fans on social media. I understand it to an extent. Drafting goalies in the first round is extremely risky. There is a reason most teams don’t do it. The Panthers desperately need defenseman prospects. The pool is extremely bare. Cameron York, 14th to the Flyers, and Thomas Harley, 18th to the Stars, were two defenseman the Panthers could have taken and while it would have been a bit of a reach, it would have finally given the Panthers the high end defensive prospect they desperately need. Now Max Gildon still sits as the best defensive prospect in the system and he projects to be a #4 defenseman at his ceiling. The Panthers drafted a few defenseman throughout the draft, but unless they outplay their draft slot, they won’t give the team the top end D-man prospect they desperately needed from this draft.
There were also some potential high end forwards that fell as teams reached for defenseman. Names like Cole Caufield and Arthur Kaliyev were some of the highest rated offensive players in the draft who fell to the Panthers at 13. According to scouts, Caufield was one of the most talented in the entire draft whose only concern was his height. If there is a guy that I wanted the Panthers to take a risk on, it’s Cole Caufield. He is a monster scorer that has 40 goal potential. My mantra is to go best player available no matter what and Caufield was the BPA at the time.
Another reason I don’t like the pick is because from this point on Spencer Knight will have more value to the organization then he will to anyone else. What does that mean? It means that it is highly unlikely the Panthers will be able to use him as a significant asset in a trade as the Panthers shift from rebuilding to contending. Goalies just don’t have much value on the trade market.
A guy like Caufield may have been blocked by a pretty stacked forward group, but assuming he tears it up at Wisconsin, his trade value will only go up and free up Dale Tallon to use him or another one of the glut of forward prospects to trade for that elusive top 4 Defenseman. That’s the tough thing about developing your own goalie, they don’t have much value to anyone but your own organization so their value is only on the ice.
Finally, I don’t like this deal for the obvious reason. It’s too risky. As analytics and scouting have improved, the 1st round has been a lot more accurate for teams. There are a lot less bust picks then there were 10-15 years ago where even drafting top 3 felt like a roll of the dice. However, that improved accuracy has not extended to projecting goalies.
Why? I don’t know. Goalies are weird. Guys who were all world at 18, get to college or the AHL and forget how to stop a puck. Sometimes their confidence gets shaken and they never get it back. It’s just impossible to figure out. But the reality is that for every Carey Price, there is a Karri Lehtonen. There is a reason teams have stopped drafting goalies in the first round. It’s not because they aren’t valuable, it’s because they are almost impossible to predict, so why use your most valuable draft asset on the most risky prospects in the draft. Logically it doesn’t make sense.
The Rest of the Draft
Here is what I think about the rest of the draft. I know there were some picks being questioned by talking heads and fans. They took a few over-age prospects in the middle rounds and passed on Finnish defenseman Mikko Kokkonen who was well regarded by pundits. Here are my thoughts. If Jari Kekalainen doesn’t push enough to make sure the Panthers draft a Finnish prospect, I’ve got no problem with the team passing on him. He’s been right more often then he’s been wrong. As for the rest, I’d rather the team take more aggressive chances early in the draft instead of taking over-age players, but I’ll trust this scouting staff that has done a much better job then the scouting staffs of the past. That’s it for the rest of the picks. Told you it would be short.
Now back to Panarin and Bobrovksy watch. As soon as something new comes out on that front, we will bring it to you. Thanks for reading.