COLUMBUS, Ohio — Corban Knight will make his Flyers debut Thursday in Columbus, replacing an ineffective Mikhail Vorobyev, who has struggled mightily over his last four games.
Knight will line up on the right side of the Flyers' fourth line with Jori Lehtera at center and Dale Weise at left wing.
It may be convenient to believe Knight is purely an extension of Chris VandeVelde since the two players have the connection of playing for Dave Hakstol at the University of North Dakota, but the Flyers' coach feels the comparison is a lazy one.
“Completely different player, so I don’t know where that comparison would come from other than the fact that the two of them played for me. That’s where you should probably end it,” Hakstol said from Nationwide Arena Thursday. “Naturally, Knight is a right-handed centerman. He’s a good two-way player. He’s versatile enough to play the right wing, and he’s a very good PKer.”
Knight playing on the right side as a right-handed shot as opposed to VandeVelde, who’s left-handed, is the obvious difference. Outside of that, Hakstol’s description of Knight could have been easily interchanged with what VandeVelde once brought to the team.
When Knight was asked if there were any similarities, he approached the question as more of a compliment to a player that had a strong, three-year run in the organization.
“I think so,” Knight said. “Vande, when I played with him at [North Dakota], he was a senior so he played a lot of big minutes for us. I think he was always good at both ends of the rink. I think his pro game translated to that PK shutdown role and obviously that’s why I’m here. I definitely think there are some parallels in our game for sure.”
But to more accurately differentiate Knight from VandeVelde is to separate their style of play from their respective roles on the team. At North Dakota, Knight proved he possessed a little more of a playmaking ability than VandeVelde as he topped the 40-point mark in three straight seasons, something VandeVelde was able to accomplish only as a senior.
Knight also outplayed other notable fourth-liners like Lehtera and Weise during the preseason before an apparent shoulder (upper-body) injury knocked him out of action for the first two weeks of the regular season.
Playing center, Knight displayed a playmaking ability that VandeVelde rarely, if ever, exhibited with the Flyers. Knight’s line with Scott Laughton and Oskar Lindblom lit up Madison Square Garden, scoring three first-period goals in a 6-4 preseason victory. The 28-year-old Knight reads plays and sees the ice differently than VandeVelde did.
However, Knight, much like Laughton a few years back, wasn’t considered a solid all-around defensive player who could kill penalties until he spent a full season with the Phantoms. Hakstol has seen that evolution in Knight’s game after signing a two-year, two-way deal with the organization in the summer of 2017.
“During his time with us in Lehigh Valley, [Corban’s] become one of our top PKers within the organization and that’s what he built his training camp on that,” Hakstol said. “He’s earned the opportunity here.”
Playing limited minutes on a fourth line, not much should be expected of Knight, but you also shouldn’t expect the second coming of Chris VandeVelde either.
Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.