July 9, 2011

Knight hopes to reap benefits of stronger two-way game

by Jesse Connolly

Bruins prospect Jared Knight had two assists in three games for Providence at the end of the 2010-11 season. (Getty)

  WILMINGTON, Mass. -- When Jared Knight stepped onto the ice at Ristuccia Arena for the first time last summer, just weeks after being selected 32nd overall by the Bruins, the talented winger hardly had any idea of what was in store for himself and the rest of Boston's pool of prospects.

Now in his second go-round of development camp, the 19-year-old forward is back at it with a wealth of confidence and determined to build upon his performance last summer -- one that caught the attention of many who were unfamiliar with his game.

"I think this camp I wasn't as nervous coming in and kind of knew what to expect," said Knight. "Right now I'm just trying to help the younger guys like Dougie [Hamilton] and some of the guys that were just drafted."

No matter how prepared he may be, Knight is just as prone to feeling a little bit worn down by the frantic schedule as the newcomers he hopes to mentor, as each day of camp has included multiple sessions of workouts and practices.

"I woke up this morning and was a little sore, my hip flexor and my groin is sore," Knight said after his third day of camp, "but overall it's good."

Last fall, Knight participated in each of the Bruins' rookie games against the Islanders at TD Garden before appearing in one preseason game with the big club. It was an experience that give him a nice little boost of confidence before he returned to his junior club, the OHL's London Knights.

"It was great playing with the great players I played with (in the rookie games)," Knight said. "And I actually got that one game in the exhibition season, so I learned a lot from the guys that played for the Bruins. I took back some of the things that I learned and applied them to my game."

After a 36-goal campaign in his second season with London, Knight's game underwent a transformation last year. Prematurely pegged as somewhat one-dimensional, the Battle Creek, Mich., native showed a flare for offensive creativity and led his squad with 45 assists and 70 points in 68 games.

"I think my goals didn't exceed 36 but my overall game improved drastically," Knight said. "I think coming into the year I was more offensive-minded, and by the end of the year I was more of a two-way player. That's really going to benefit me."

Considering that Bruins coach Claude Julien has an affinity for rewarding players with a strong two-way game, Knight's chances of earning a spot in Boston should only be on the rise. The 5-foot-11 winger will be back when main camp opens in September, hoping to capitalize on his opportunity and become the next prized prospect to break through for the Black and Gold.

"You just work hard, it's all you can do," Knight said of his approach during the offseason. "You've just got to keep focused during the summer, keep working out, keep skating and improving every day."

Providence coach Bruce Cassidy is confident that both Knight and forward Ryan Spooner have what it takes to make a serious run at nailing down a roster spot in Boston.

"These are the guys you kind of wait for September to really watch because they are going to be the best guys out, well should be," said Cassidy. "And I don’t think they’ve disappointed anybody so those are the guys you watch down the road. I think they have a legitimate shot to push on people for jobs here."

For the Bruins band of returning players, Knight and company promise to offer them some stiff competition when the battle begins.