The Maple Leafs signed 23-year-old defenceman Eric Knodel to a one-year entry-level contract today. Knodel was the Leafs’ 2009 5th round draft pick who played four years at the University of New Hampshire, finishing his college career with a heartbreaking loss to UMass Lowell in the Hockey East Championship last Saturday.
Knodel registered 28 points (7 goals, 21 assists) with 28 penalty minutes and a +16 rating in 41 games as captain of the Wildcats this season. Over his three-year career at the University of New Hampshire (2011-12 to 2013-14), Knodel posted 20 goals and 41 assists for 61 points with 60 penalty minutes in 116 games.
The 6-foot-6 Knodel will now join the Marlies for the rest of their season armed with a one-year entry level contract that spans 2014-15. Needless to say, he’s got a short window to prove himself at the professional level.
I caught up with UNH Head coach Dick Umile for some quick comments on Knodel’s game.
On Eric’s four years at UNH:
“He progressed an awful lot. He turned into a League All Star in Hockey East, which says a lot. Any time you’re a League All Star in our League, it says something. He’s progressed to be a very talented defenceman, both defensively and offensively.
He led our powerplay. He was the key defenceman on the powerplay, the quarterback of the PP. He had a great shot, and scored several goals because of his shot and his release. He killed penalties. He played a tonne of minutes. He was our Chara. Played an awful lot of minutes.”
How mobile is he for a 6’6 225-pounder?
“He moves pretty good for a guy who is 6’6, but he’s got a great stick. A long stick, a long wingspan and he uses it well.”
Does he use the size to punish opponents?
“I wouldn’t say he’s an overly physical player. He’s not shy, but it’s not like he’s out there crushing people. I think he uses his stick, the length of his stick, and his reach to break up a lot of plays and control people one on one.”
Biggest area in need of improvement to take this next step at the AHL level?
“It’s always defensive play, physical play along the boards, and the speed and strength adjustment at the next level.”
A video of some of Knodel’s highlights this past season:
Get to know the man: