The town of Darien, Conn., is known for expensive houses, beautiful coastline and celebrity visits, but for Spencer Knight, there was another draw when he was growing up: his house was five minutes away from Prentiss Hockey, the gym run by famed trainer Ben Prentiss.
Knight goes four times a week in the summer, where he has sometimes skated with Los Angeles goalie Jonathan Quick. It’s a bit of kismet, since both Knight and Quick attended Avon Old Farms prep school. Furthermore, in scouting circles, Knight, 17, has been called the best American goalie to come along since Quick.
So why is the U.S. National Team Development Program netminder so good? “Oh, man,” said U.S. NTDP goalie coach Thomas Speer. “There’s a lot there. He’s one of the most physically mature and strong goalies I’ve ever seen at that age. Then you add in the mental component to stay calm, and his ability, and you have one of the most dominant goalies this program has had.”
The 2019 draft prospect (first round potential depending upon the next six months) didn’t have a single loss the first month of the season, which included wins over the No. 1-ranked NCAA team, Notre Dame, as well as 2018 Frozen Four semifinalist Michigan.
The 6-foot-3 stopper has always been ahead of the curve, leading Team USA to silver at the world under-18s last year. Keep in mind, Knight was playing for the U.S. NTDP’s under-17 team at the time, so he had to push past both under-18 goalies. “It’s the best experience I’ve had so far, even though we didn’t win gold,” he said. “Being in Russia with the guys was great, and it showed just how little room there is between silver and gold.”
Knight is committed to Boston College, which he partly chose because the Eagles have a good history with goalies (Cory Schneider, Thatcher Demko and currently Joe Woll). It will mean a return to the East Coast after two years in Michigan with the NTDP, but – just like his decision to attend Avon Old Farms at 15 – it comes from a desire to prepare for the future. “First, (Avon Old Farms) is a great school with a great hockey program,” Knight said. “But I also wanted to live away from home and get a taste of what it would be like. I learned a lot about time management there.”
But what about the team’s unique nickname? Why are Avon Old Farms players known as Winged Beavers? “I still wonder about that myself,” Knight said. Maybe he can ask Quick the next time he sees him.
This story appears in the January 7, 2019 of The Hockey News magazine.