Colorado Avalanche Should Steal Hilary Knight from Boston Pride

NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 12: Co-captain Hilary Knight
NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 12: Co-captain Hilary Knight /

The Colorado Avalanche should openly court forward Hilary Knight away from the Boston Pride because her playing style would complement the team’s.

Colorado Avalanche fans and sports writers tend to focus on how the team defense needs to improve. It’s improving — it’s just going to be young this season. Veterans Erik Johnson (29 years old), Mark Barberio (27 years old) and Tyson Barrie (26 years old) are going to be supported by kids in their early 20s.

What’s not as often talked about is the problem with Colorado Avalanche scoring. Well, the problem is that they haven’t done enough. They were dead last in the NHL last season, scoring only 165 goals and with a goal differential of -111, which also made them dead last.

It’s true that core players Nathan MacKinnon (16 goals), Matt Duchene (18 goals) and Gabriel Landeskog (18 goals) all had off years. However, it’s also true that they didn’t get a lot of help from their main supporting players:

What’s more, it’s clear that not only were these players not scoring goals, they weren’t setting them up well either — or their linemates would have scored more goals.

In other words, the Colorado Avalanche could use some support in the goal scoring department. Enter Hilary Knight, the star of the Boston Pride.

Hilary Knight Playing Style

Forward Hilary Knight is a two-time Olympic silver medalist and has an impressive six gold medals and two other silver medals in world championship play for Team USA.

The 28-year-old tore it up at the University of Wisconsin, averaging 32 goals per season — an average of .92 goals per game. That’s goals, not points. She averaged 1.63 points per game over four years.

In the professional leagues, she’s been pretty consistent at that rate. In three years with the CWHL Boston Blades, she averaged 1.51 points per game. In two years with the NWHL Boston Pride, she’s averaged 1.77 points per game.

Knight is known for having a high-octane style. She’s led the Pride into being a fast, skilled team.

Here are some Hilary Knight highlights:

That’s a player who can dangle.

Hilary Knight and the Colorado Avalanche

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It’s hard to say Hilary Knight could challenge for a top-six role. We’d have to see how she skates with Matt Duchene and Nail Yakupov — it looks pretty good that Alex Kerfoot or Tyson Jost will take that spot, though.

And the second line of Gabriel Landeskog-Nathan MacKinnon-Mikko Rantanen looks all but set.

I think the third scoring line could benefit from Knight’s high-octane style. She would certainly bring skill and speed to, say, Colin Wilson and Sven Andrighetto. That would be a very nice third scoring line. (Knight is 5-foot-11, putting her right between the 6-foot-1 Wilson and 5-foot-10 Andrighetto.)

The Colorado Avalanche are moving to a speed game characterized by excellent puck skills. That’s Hilary Knight all the way, which is why it’s confusing that we haven’t even heard rumors that they’re courting her. Well, there’s one other thing…

The Elephant in the Room

Hilary Knight is already 28 years old. GM Joe Sakic has made it clear that he wants the team to get younger. Now, they did sign 29-year-old Jonathan Bernier to a one-year contract, but he’s a goalie. Presumably Sakic is speaking mostly about his skaters.

I don’t think that should be a big deterrence to the Colorado Avalanche. Heaven knows Knight is younger — and far more skilled — than either Blake Comeau (31 years old) or Carl Soderberg (31 years old).

I’m not sure what her contract is with the Boston Pride. It might be tough to break. However, it’s been said that Knight wants to play in the NHL — she says it outright in the video below:

Indeed, she did attend a practice with the Anaheim Ducks:

Though Knight hasn’t had a chance to attend NHL prospect development or training camps, she definitely looks right at home with NHL players. And why shouldn’t she? Her hockey pedigree is better than many of theirs, even though she’s been forced to kick it in a league a grade or two below the NHL.

Which brings us to the real elephant in the room — Hilary Knight is a woman. Even though she’s taller than both Andrighetto and Barrie — and literally towers over Rocco Grimaldi — even though she has legions more skill and talent than the likes of Blake Comeau, she’s never even been invited to try out.

That’s a shame. In an NHL that was huge and gritty, you could make a case that it was no place for women. But a league that’s moving to speed and skill — not to mention play driven by analytics — well, Hilary Knight shows us there’s no reason women can’t be just as skilled and talented as male players. When size and brute strength aren’t prerequisites for the sport, then being male isn’t a prerequisite either.

Knight spent the first several years of her hockey development playing on boys’ leagues. She thrived. Eventually she had to move to girls’ leagues, and she excelled. I’m here to say that move should never have happened. There shouldn’t be boys’ and girls’ leagues to begin with — just tiers of skill leagues that keep the Hilary Knights in the top tiers and the, say, Matt Cookes in the bottom tiers.

Next: Evaluating a Forward Roster That's Taking Shape

Until that happens, I maintain that Hilary Knight would be a benefit to the Colorado Avalanche as-is. Seriously, I’d love to see her on that third scoring line and maybe even the second power play unit. She’s more than got the foot and stick skills to hang.