CALGARY, AB -- Corban Knight knows a thing or two about taking tests.
The 23-year-old has seen his fair share over the course of his four-years of school at the University of North Dakota.
Calgary Flames coach Bob Hartley is about to give him another one.
Dubbing Calgary’s final pre-season tilt against the Phoenix Coyotes a “final exam”, Hartley has put Calgary’s kids -- Knight included -- on notice that Wednesday’s performance puts them in make-or-break territory.
“He’s used that phrase a couple times,” Knight said. “The fact that this is the last exhibition game, the last chance to show management and the coaching staff you belong here. It’s definitely a little nerve-wracking but it’s exciting.
“You’ve trained your whole life for this moment and you’re going to have 60 minutes to try to prove it. It’s exciting. It’ll be an exciting game out there tonight.”
The 6-foot-2, 195-pound pivot is also trying to prove he’s a quick study.
Used sparingly in his pre-season debut against the Edmonton Oilers on September 14th, the High River, AB product has made it a point to prove he can make the jump from the NCAA to National Hockey League action.
“It’s been one of those things where it is an eye-opening experience just seeing how high the level is here and how hard guys push each other and how good guys are,” the first-year pro said. “You watch NHL on TV for years and it doesn’t really do it justice how good guys are. To be here, being with these guys every day, it’s pushed me to try to be better.”
Hartley’s test will certainly push Knight, too.
For better of worse, Wednesday's performance will determine whether or not Knight can earn a passing grade and stick in Calgary.
“It can certainly influence it,” Hartley said. “I don’t know if it can change it but I’m not the only guy to decide. I have a great group working with me and like I said, we will do what’s best for the Calgary Flames but at the same time, dealing with young players if we feel that if you can be in the top 20 players and play on a regular basis.
"Here’s one situation. Is it better to keep a young player as our 21st, 22nd or 23rd player and not playing? That’s something we will have to look at. I’m not a big fan of this.”
Fortunately for Knight, he’ll be auditioning to be one of Hartley’s 20 where he’s most comfortable -- down the middle.
After shifting to the wing in previous pre-season contests, Knight will get one final opportunity to impress Hartley as he returns to the middle in the team’s final pre-season tilt.
“Knight has not been playing centre since the start of camp apart from inter-squad games,” Hartley said. “Tonight he’s going to play the full game at centre.”
That’s a comfort for Knight.
“It’s been great moving around and I’m trying to show the coaches I’m a versatile player but going back to the middle where I’m comfortable and where I’ve been, it’s exciting just because I feel confident there and I feel like I can do a lot of effective things there,” he said.
In other words, Knight feels like he tests best down the middle.
Which will give him his best chance of passing Hartley's exam.
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