Matthew Knies of the Toronto Maple Leafs: “I want to be that power forward”

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Matthew Knies has big plans for the upcoming ice hockey season.

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“I want to play with the big players, I want to play with the big club and I’m just going to do my best to play there,” Knies said Wednesday at the Ford Performance Center.

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“I want to be that strong forward, I want to be that old, traditional hockey player that works hard, can play physical and can move the puck well and produce. That’s what I’m going to try to do and I think it starts with my work ethic.”

Let’s go back a few months and remember Knies’ first appearance with the Maple Leafs.

After leaving the University of Minnesota in April to sign a three-year contract with Toronto, the winger starred in a total of ten games for the club, getting his feet wet in three regular-season games before appearing seven times in the Stanley Cup playoffs. games.

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The 20-year-old learned so quickly that not only did coach Sheldon Keefe have enough trust in Knies to use him in overtime in the playoffs, but Knies was also on the ice for three game-winners in the first round against the Leafs OT against Tampa Bay Lightning. That included an assist on captain John Tavares’ game-winning goal in Game 6 in Tampa, helping the Leafs advance to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2004.

In short, the 6-foot-1, 220-pound Knies has made a name for himself, whether by winning battles on the boards or using his intelligence to make plays and make the right decisions.

Had Knies not suffered a concussion in Game 2 of the second round against the Florida Panthers when he was thrown to the ice by Panthers forward Sam Bennett, Knies’ impact would certainly have continued to be positive.

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Knies said he was cleared to return to the lineup the day the Leafs lost Game 5 to Florida and were eliminated.

“I was very fortunate to have these opportunities to play,” Knies said of his NHL playoff experience. “I wasn’t really worried at the moment. I just tried to play my game, play to my strengths and I think it went uphill from there and luckily we got the jump and it worked out for us.”

With Leafs training camp starting next week, Knies is taking nothing for granted, not to mention his impressive performance last spring.

A look at the Leafs’ depth chart shows that the top six has been determined: New additions Tyler Bertuzzi and Max Domi are on the first two lines along with Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, Tavares and William Nylander.

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In the playoffs, Knies appeared alongside Matthews, Tavares and the late Ryan O’Reilly. The youngster was never out of his element.

Whether it would be best for Knies to move to the third line, at least to start the season, remains to be seen, but the Phoenix native will do his utmost to complicate Keefe’s final decisions.

“It’s never easy,” Knies said. “I don’t think there’s a guarantee of playing in the NHL. You have to work your butt off every day, bury your head and get back to work.”

The seriousness begins this weekend in Traverse City, Michigan, where Knies will lead the Leafs contenders in a tournament against Columbus, Dallas and Detroit.

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The preparations for the exhibition come after Knies spent part of the summer skating with Matthews in Arizona and taking care of himself differently off the ice. He took nutritional notes while living with Tavares late last season.

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“I tried to prepare my body for such a long season and be as prepared as possible,” Knies said of the summer program. “I think (Tavares) opened my eyes to some things… how much John trains and how careful he is about what he eats and what he puts in his body. It was good to get over that.

“(Skating with Matthews), having someone who is a big role model for me and who is by my side every day was great. Pick his brain, watch practice, watch him do his reps, that was a really big thing for me.”

But first, the prospects tournament in Michigan.

“It’s a nice opportunity for me to get a few games in and get some shots in before training camp starts,” Knies said. “It puts me in a position to learn to be a leader, learn some leadership skills and I think it’s wonderful to be around the younger players who will be here at some point. I’m just happy to be a part of it.”

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