Leaner, meaner Knight could be good thing for B's

Leaner, meaner Knight could be good thing for B's
September 5, 2013, 9:15 am
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WILMINGTON – Last year was a washout of a hockey season for Jared Knight that he clearly wanted to forget as soon as it was over.

The 21-year-old was limited to 10 games during the AHL regular season and six playoff games for the Providence Bruins due to hamstring issues in his first full pro hockey season. The injury grabbed at him before the season was even underway, and he suffered a series of setbacks as the anxious youngster tried to return to action too early. Knight started last year off with eager anticipation at showing himself off to the Bruins brass during the lockout, but ended wondering exactly what the hell had just happened.

There were a number of low points to choose from for Knight: the two-game rehab stint in the ECHL with the South Carolina Stingrays after missing the whole first half of the season, or the lonely days in Providence while roommates Ryan Spooner and Torey Krug were on road trips with the P-Bruins.

Pretty much all of it was a bummer.

“It got pretty lonely, actually,” admitted Knight, a second round pick (32 overall) in the 2010 NHL draft that also netted Boston Tyler Seguin and Spooner among others. “When Spooner and Krug were on the road, it was just me and my dog. My girlfriend would come down for a visit sometimes, but it was tough.

“I really learned a lot about myself, but even more I learned how much I love playing hockey. Sometimes when things are going well you can take things for granted, but I realized that I never want to take hockey for granted. It pushed me to work that much harder this summer.”

While last year essentially felt like a wasted year for the gritty, skilled winger and the Bruins organization, Knight didn’t waste any time looking to correct the problems surrounding his hamstring issues. The injury, in part, cropped up from Knight training for bulk and strength in a football-style workout program throughout his career. The workout program worked during his time for the London Knights, and had him at a solid block of muscle, well over 200 pounds, when AHL training camp began last year.

As the kids would say these days, Knight looked “swole” headed into last year and it ended up costing him big time.

But Knight made a mistake common to young hockey players: he chose bulk and strength over the flexibility and lean muscle needed at the highest levels of professional hockey. It’s a common mistake that many former NHL players have seen young players make coming out the college or junior ranks.

“Young guys learn that junior/college shape is different than pro shape. You have to be lean and strong. Bulk hurts,” said former Bruins/Boston College defenseman Bobby Allen. “I was the same way out of school. You need to build the body a certain way. That can withstand 80-82 games: lean, wiry strength.”

Knight addressed those issues this summer while working out in Ottawa with noted NHL strength coach Lorne Goldenberg, who now works out of the ACC in Ottawa and with Gary Roberts Training in Toronto. Knight estimated that he dropped his playing weight from a high of 217 pounds last year to a wiry, lean 197 pounds over the course of last summer.

That got Knight the Goldenberg seal of approval before heading to Bruins camp this month, and should put him in the best position to show off what made him the 32nd overall selection in a talented 2010 draft class.

“I’ve been doing this in and out of the NHL for over 25 years with some of the best. Jared had a great summer. He's ready!” said Goldenberg in a tweet to CSNNE.com. “With unneeded bulk [players] lose hip mobility, which is critical for skating. He had no mobility, but now [he’s] Gumby.”

Even better, Knight skated this summer in Ottawa with a group of the local NHL guys looking to stay in shape. One of those NHL players was B’s center Chris Kelly, who just so happens to center the third line where Boston has a number of job openings headed into training camp. Knight was able to skate on Kelly’s line during a few scrimmages this summer, and has the type of physicality and offense that could be a perfect fit for third line duty in the NHL.

“I think I have that ability to play a crash-and-bang style of game, and am always looking to crash the net for offensive chances. I don’t mind that style of play at all,” said Knight. “But I also know there is going to be a lot of really good players auditioning for any open spots with the Bruins, so I’ll have to be at my best.”

At his best, Knight is a physical, banging style of winger that can also shoot the lights out while averaging 29 goals per season in each of his last three OHL seasons prior to last year. The combination of physicality and offensive skill along with the young 21-year-old legs would make Knight a fine candidate for Boston’s third line, but players like the playmaking Spooner, Anthony Camara, Carl Soderberg, Reilly Smith and Matt Fraser will also get third line auditions over the next month.

So it is a crowded field of candidates for the Black and Gold entering next week’s training camp. But Knight has already raised eyebrows by putting in the work this summer after a miserable first season.

Now he’ll get a chance to show it off during rookie training camp as it turns to a series of exhibition games in Florida this weekend.