Graham Knott started last season with the Niagara IceDogs, where the Blackhawks prospect was expected to be one of the veteran leaders on a young team. A month later that all changed; Knott was traded to the Windsor Spitfires, a strong team that was guaranteed a spot in the Memorial Cup because it was the tournament host.
A 44-day layoff and a great tournament later, Knott and the Spitfires were claiming the team’s third Memorial Cup since 2009.
“Yeah, it was crazy,” Knott said of unexpected events this season. “I was going to be relied on as a leader [with Niagara]. But I got traded and then was fortunate enough to go there, play on a good team. We had a chance to go in for the Memorial Cup and it was all uphill from there.”
The move provided Knott valuable experience as well as a championship. He had three goals and an assist in four Memorial Cup games, including the game-tying goal in the title game against the Erie Otters. Now Knott’s attention turns to prospect camp and then training camp, where he’ll see his chances of making the Blackhawks.
Knott will enter this Blackhawks prospect camp with a contract, the three-year, entry-level deal he signed last September. The 6-foot-4, 194-pound Knott would bring size and a habit of hanging around the net, something the Blackhawks will gladly take. Knott hasn’t had much of an offseason thus far but prepping for Blackhawks camps will start soon.
“I took it easy after we won [on May 28] so I can’t take any more days off. Get back into the gym, stay in shape,” he said. “I played not too long ago, so I’m in somewhat game shape, continue work in staying elite shape and up my strength. Coming to prospect camp, it’s fun. It’s going to be a good year. Hopefully I’ll show Chicago that I’m ready for the pros.”
As great as the Memorial Cup experience was, waiting to play in it was interesting. After being eliminated in the first round of the Ontario Hockey League playoffs, the Spitfires went 44 days without a hockey game. That’s when Knott and teammates were introduced to then coach Rocky Thompson’s phase-focused plan.
“Phase 1 was [practicing] five days a week for about two weeks. We tapered off Phase 2 and 3 leading up to tournament, but Phase 1 was a battle: two workouts a day, skate, up at 7 a.m. and running hills,” Knott said. “We didn’t take any time off. We got back into it, really drove to be successful and we were.
“Rocky had a very good plan,” Knott said of Thompson, who was named the Chicago Wolves’ new coach on Wednesday. “Going so far early and tapering off was perfect. Everyone was in good shape, everyone was healthy. We took on game 1 and we were flying. We went up from there, kept getting better and better.”
Knott had plenty thrown at him this past season, from trades to long waits to championships. Now to see where he falls in the Blackhawks’ plans.
“You can’t sit on the sidelines and look at the lineup and see where you fall in and which place you take. I have to go in and work my hardest,” Knott said. “I know what kind of player I am and if I can play my game I’ll hopefully be ready to go.”