September 9, 2011

Knight embracing leadership role at B’s rookie camp

By Kirk Luedeke

Although just drafted by the Boston Bruins in 2010, winger Jared Knight is participating in his fourth camp event with the team. 

A veteran of two prospect development camps in July 2010-11, he is entering his second rookie and main training camps in Boston for the month of September. Knight is also coming off his most productive junior season, having led the OHL’s London Knights in scoring with 70 points.

“I’m tired, but it was a great day,” Knight told New England Hockey Journal when asked about the opening of camp. “We started with a 5:00 wakeup and went in to medical testing, then did the physical off-ice tests and finished up on the ice, so it was good to get everything going.”

Knight said that after completing the medical portion, he was pleased with the strength and conditioning tests. His bench stayed the same as it was in July, with nine reps at 225 pounds, but he increased his chin-ups to 21, passed the run portions and arrived in Boston with just 6 percent body fat, a testament to his rigorous off-ice training over the summer.

The 19-year-old native of Battle Creek, Michigan is developing into a fan favorite for the way he plays a hard-nosed, straight-ahead game by taking the puck to the net and getting involved in the offense. The second pick of the 2010 draft’s second round after a 36-goal season in London, Knight has rounded out his overall game since Boston drafted him and credits the time spent with the organization as having helped with his development.

“It’s a pretty good group of guys we have here with a lot of skill on the ice,” he said of the 21 other young NHL hopefuls who have joined him in Wilmington, Mass., including eight players there on an invitational basis. “Obviously, I know some of the players I’ve had a chance to be in the development camps with, but there are some other guys I don’t know, so it’s been good getting to know them, too.”

The B’s rookies conducted an afternoon on-ice practice after the veterans completed their captain’s practice, giving those in attendance a chance to see how far some of the prospects have come since July.

Along with fellow 2010 second-rounder Ryan Spooner, Knight is being talked about as a player who could push for an NHL roster spot in October. It won’t be easy, especially given the amount of veterans vying for spots. Because of his age, Knight would have to return to the OHL if he isn’t in Boston to start the year. While making the big club is the ultimate goal, going back to London would provide Knight the opportunity to mentor his roommate, Max Domi. Domi, 16, is the son of former NHL enforcer Tie Domi, and is already being touted as one of the top prospects for the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.

“He’s a great guy,” Knight said of the younger Domi, whom he got to know when London started up its own training camp a few weeks back. “It’s been cool to be able to talk to his father, too. He’s helped me with some things and given me some real good advice.”

As is the case in London, Knight is also taking on more of a leadership role with his prospect peers in Boston as someone who has been exposed to the systems and expectations enough to be someone the others can look to. Rooming with another noted junior hockey leader in former Vancouver Giants captain Craig Cunningham, Knight has also benefited from the 21-year-old’s example and demeanor.

After the first demanding day of camp, Knight and a group of B’s prospects took in dinner at the Cheesecake Factory. Knight, who has Type I Diabetes, skipped the cheesecake, but welcomed the chance to bond with the guys, which included Spooner and several other OHLers including Dougie Hamilton and Anthony Camara.

With Boston drafting so many different players from that league, it makes for interesting times when they leave Boston and return to Ontario to face each other.

“It is kind of weird,” he said of the OHL competition. “You play another team (in the OHL), so you don’t like the player(when he’s) on that team. I’m sure I chirped the guys when I played against them, but in the end, it’s hockey and we all get along here and are becoming good friends.”

It’s hard to believe that at age 19, Knight is starting to drift into “veteran” status among the other B’s prospects in the system. However, with his growing familiarity and confidence in accomplishing what the organization is asking of him (he signed a three-year entry level contract in July), there should not be too many more “rookie” events in his future.