The 2021 World Junior Championship is getting closer, and the hockey world is getting very excited about this tournament taking place. The Florida Panthers have a lot of players who have a chance to play in the tournament. Goaltender, Spencer Knight is one of the first two players who should come to mind.
As far as the tournament goes, you can argue that Knight, could be the most important player on the Team USA roster. Mentally, he’s a cut above, and that’s part of what makes him special.
“I agree 100%. The compete level with Spencer is next to none from what I’ve seen from goalies since I’ve been doing this job,” Panthers Director of Player Personnel, Bryan McCabe stated. “His preparation and work that he puts into his craft are amazing. He thinks in the now. He doesn’t think ahead. He’s not thinking about when he’s going to the NHL. Nothing like that. He’s a focused individual who takes pride in what he does.”
Every player develops differently, and the Panthers aren’t rushing this prospect.
“We’re letting him develop at his own pace. Spencer will let us know when he’s ready for the next step in his career path. He had a fabulous freshman year, and the team probably would have battled for a National Championship, if it were not for Covid,” McCabe stated. “Considering where BC was two years ago, it’s amazing how far they’ve come, and he’s a big part of that. They’ve had another good recruiting class, and hopefully a big year ahead of them. We are really excited about what the future holds for him.”
Hockey players need routines. It’s part of their mental makeup.
“In BC we’re only skating a couple of times a week, and we’re separated into two groups, all of that stuff,” Knight noted. “It was nice to get three scrimmages under our belts. And go through the pregame routine. The scrimmages had a really good pace to it.”
Knight’s overall mental preparation is already top-notch and he sharpened it at the World Junior Evaluation Camp.
“I thought from day 1 to today, I thought I had a pretty solid route,” Knight revealed. “The big thing in the tournament is consistency. What I also noticed is that when things get tough, you can’t get too down because you have to play a game the next day. The thing is you can play your best hockey through the round-robin, and as the #1 seed, we played in the quarterfinals and lost last year.
“A lot of people work so hard to get to the quarters and get to the cross overs, but the thing is once they start. It’s basically a whole new tournament with a lot more challenges, and it’s a lot harder hockey. It’s not going to be a cakewalk just because you are a higher seed.”
Game preparation sets players apart. It’s not a script, but it’s being prepared for what lies ahead on the ice.
“His game prep and the way he handles himself in the course of a 60-minute game is just amazing to watch. The way he reads the plays, and the calm, cool demeanor, nothing seems to rattle him. It’s infectious throughout the team in front of him.”
Anton Lundell Will Star for Finland
Lundell is known for his two-way play and his playmaking ability, but his scoring has been on display in the early part of this season with HIFK. In his first ten games, he has eight goals and two helpers.
“We all felt that it was going to be there from watching him. I’ve watched him for a couple of years now,” McCabe added. “Hockey I.Q. is a tough thing to teach. Some guys can think the game, and some can’t on a high level. You can do as many Xs and Os videos with guys, but when it’s happening at a face pace it’s hard to grasp it. Anton certainly has the ability to think the game at a high level on both sides of the puck. It’s a great asset to have moving forward.”
The Panthers want as many of their players playing in this tournament. They know it makes them more well-rounded players in the end, and it can be the spark that propels a player for the rest of a season.
“We have a couple of guys that are on the cusp of hopefully will get an opportunity to make the team; Cole Schwindt (C, 2019), was invited to Canada’s camp, Emil Heineman (R, 2020), will have an opportunity to make Sweden’s team, Kasper Puutio (D, 2020 Draft), with Finland will also have an opportunity to make that team,” said McCabe. “It’s still a month away here, and I know that Sweden and Finland’s camps were supposed to have a tournament last weekend, but it got canceled. We didn’t get much feedback from that, so our hope is our players get an opportunity to play. It’s a special tournament.”
Let’s all keep an eye on these players to see who gets selected.