Father-son connection powers Knierim’s draft dream

Aaron Vickers2016 Draft Center, Features

Willie Knierim owes a lot to William Knierim.

After all, it was the elder Knierim who put the now-18-year-old NHL Draft eligible forward on the ice in the first place.

Even if it might’ve been a little bit against his will.

“I was six years old,” said Willie, who has 12 goals and 22 points in 48 games with the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the United States Hockey League this season. “My dad signed me up for a class. I didn’t really want to go.

“After I completed it I liked it a lot.”

No kidding.

The six-foot-three, 220-pound forward excelled through the Chicago Mission program before jumping to the junior ranks in Dubuque.

To this point, he credits William with his success.

“He’s always giving me advice for hockey and stuff,” Willie started, “and telling me to go out there and work hard.”

The hard work has paid off.

Knierim, one of the draft’s most intriguing options as a power forward, landed a commitment with the Miami University Redhawks, who have produced current NHLers like Dan Boyle, Andy Greene, Alec Martinez, Reilly Smith and Tommy Wingels.

He’s hoping to add to the list of alumni.

And he’s well on his way, if the scouting report from teammate Michael O’Leary is accurate.

“I think Willie, obviously he’s a big power forward,” O’Leary said. “There isn’t a guy better than him protecting the puck when he’s got it out there on his hip. It’s hard to get it from him. Everybody has a problem with that. He’s a leader on this team. He’s been here before. Guys look up to him like that.”

The report lines up with what Future Considerations’ Jake VanBesien sees in Knierim, too.

“His size, his six-foot-three stature is hard to miss,” VanBesien said. “His strengths are playing along the corners, work ethic is outstanding…he’s rarely seen not moving his feet…not afraid to throw the body around and cause some extra curricular pushing and shoving after the whistle, plays with sheer power, puck handling included. I would describe Knierim as a power forward who is extremely hard to beat and muscle off of the puck.”

Whether or not that translates at the next level remains to be seen.

But Knierim’s given himself plenty of time to grow at the college game.

It’s one of the reasons he opted to take the college route instead of joining the Ontario Hockey League, where he was drafted by the Owen Sound Attack in the second round of the Priority Selection in 2014.

“It gives you a couple extra years to improve your game and just get better before you make that step to professional hockey,” Knierim said.

Professional hockey isn’t something that struck the Skokie, IL product at any one particular time.

Yet it’s becoming a very real possibility for the draft eligible.

“I don’t think there’s a certain point in your life where you think you can do this,” he said. “As I grew up I always did very well. I committed to Miami Ohio and thought if I take it one step at a time, I can get to Miami and do well at Miami, maybe I can play professional.”

He will.

And when he does, Willie can think back to when he was six, strapping on the skates with reluctance, with father William.