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Game Preview/Lines #55: Knyzhov’s Hard Work Paying Off

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Credit: NBCS Bay Area

San Jose Sharks (21-27-6)

Arizona Coyotes (23-26-6)

This is how Arizona lined up last night:

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Puck drop is 7:30 PM PT at SAP Center. Watch it on NBC Sports Bay Area, Bally Sports Arizona Plus, or NHL.tv.

Morning Skate

Nikolai Knyzhov revealed yesterday that he would be skating for Team Russia in the World Championships later this month.

Just think about that for a second: Knyzhov went undrafted. The San Jose Sharks signed him out of Russia in July 2019, and at that point, the 21-year-old had played a grand total of 3 KHL games, spending most of his time in juniors. He didn’t exactly dominate in his North American debut last year either; he was among the least-used Barracuda defensemen for much of the season.

And while he did make his NHL debut last year, he wasn’t necessarily considered a favorite to even break camp with the Sharks this season. But now?

He’s a top-four defenseman in San Jose, paired with Erik Karlsson, and he’s going to be representing a “Big Six” hockey country in a major international tournament.

“At the beginning of the season, there wasn’t even a shot [of being asked], I guess. But having that opportunity come my way shows,” Knyzhov said, “the hard work pays off.”

For Knyzhov, the hard work has included swearing off junk food and gaining 20 pounds of muscle.

“No. 1, it’s a great find by the organization,” Boughner pointed out. Knyzhov has previously noted that the Sharks were one of just three NHL teams that were interested in his services.

“But I always said when I saw him a couple years ago, in his power and his legs, he’s got NHL tools, big, strong, played physical,” Boughner recalled. “He had all the tools. It was just a matter of giving him some time and developing.”

Karlsson has had a front row seat for Knyzhov’s development.

“He’s been a steady guy for the most part of the year,” the two-time Norris Trophy winner offered. “Team Russia is going to be very pleased with having him.”

But it’s the San Jose Sharks who are going to reap most of the rewards of Knyzhov’s growth – and they’re happy for it.

“I think you’re gonna see, a lot like Mario [Ferraro], [Knyzhov] play against top lines and log heavy minutes,” Boughner predicted.

Like Ferraro last year, Knyzhov has come out of nowhere this year to be San Jose’s most impactful rookie. And now Ferraro, in just his second full season, plays over 22 minutes a night and tasked with a shutdown role.

“The way he keeps improving,” Karlsson said, “he’s got a bright future in this league for a long time.”

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Yellow Laces

Hey Sheng, Did you collect any scouting insights on Knyzhov at the beginning of the season? I’m curious, what the scouts thought of him then, vs. now?

timorous me

I seem to remember at least one very unenthusiastic comment from a scout. Knyzhov really has come out of nowhere. Best story of the season, surely (with Balcers #2, I’d say).

[…] seven more minutes of ice time (22:27) than he did as a rookie (15:53), while 23-year-old rookie Nikolai Knyzhov will represent Russia at the upcoming IIHF World Championships in […]

[…] (22:27) vairāk nekā to darīja kā debitants (15:53), savukārt 23 gadus vecais debitants Krieviju pārstāvēs Nikolajs Knegovs Gaidāmajā IIHF pasaules čempionātā […]

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