Kris Knoblauch and Scott Gordon

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Hartnett: Rangers Appoint Kris Knoblauch In Hartford To Improve AHL-To-NHL Pipeline

Sean Hartnett
July 31, 2019 - 1:22 pm
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Once John Davidson took over as Rangers’ president, it was clear that a top-to-bottom rethink was on the horizon. One key area that needed to be overhauled was a sluggish AHL-to-NHL pipeline.

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Back in mid-April before Davidson’s hiring, the organization made the decision to fire Hartford Wolf Pack head coach Keith McCambridge after two seasons. Under McCambridge’s watch, player development slowed and the Wolf Pack struggled on the ice.

Hartford finished 34-33-6-3 in 2017-18 and followed that up with a last-place 29-36-7-4 record last season. The 2018-19 Wolf Pack fell 18 points short of the playoffs. An 11-point gap between the cellar-dwelling Wolf Pack and the seventh-placed Springfield Thunderbirds was proof of how far off the pace the Rangers’ AHL affiliate had fallen.

Under McCambridge and predecessor Ken Gernander, the Wolf Pack qualified for the Calder Cup Playoffs once in the past seven seasons. While on-ice results weren’t promising, the stalled development of youngsters was a far more worrying sign.

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These trends cannot continue. There’s a possibility that Igor Shesterkin, Adam Fox, K’Andre Miller, Yegor Rykov, Nils Lundkvist, Karl Henriksson, Matthew Robertson, Morgan Barron and others will require AHL seasoning before making a full-time jump to the NHL. So, it was imperative that the Rangers identified and recruited a coach for Hartford with a strong track record of developing youngsters.

Davidson was able to install his preferred choice in Kris Knoblauch. The 40-year-old notably coached eventual NHL superstar Connor McDavid at Erie of the Ontario Hockey League and Sam Reinhart during his stint with Kootenay of the Western Hockey League.

Knoblauch spent the past two seasons as an assistant coach for the Philadelphia Flyers. Davidson has spoken about the need for the AHL hire to be a strong communicator and someone who can establish a winning culture.

One of Knoblauch’s achievements was winning OHL Coach of the Year in 2015-16. He also served as an assistant for Team Canada at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship, helping the Canadians to a silver medal.

After a careful selection process, the Rangers hope that Knoblauch will engineer a turnaround in Hartford and ensure that the Hartford-to-MSG shuttle is operating regularly and efficiently.

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