Desert Dog Blog: Rick Knickle eager to begin his job

Jul 29, 2011, 2:40 PM | Updated: 3:41 pm

Rick Knickle is eager to start his new job as Director of Amateur Scouting for the Coyotes and eager to put his stamp on the team’s development system.

“As far as prospects go, I think they’re on the right track and they have some good pieces,” Knickle told me on Thursday morning. “I’m looking to add more pieces, and continue to draft and do well in the draft and find good players in all rounds.”

He added, “I’ve studied the game my whole life and this job of being a scout is something I really enjoy. Every game, I get something out of it.”

Knickle, who was an integral part of the Nashville Predators’ scouting department since the team joined the NHL in 1998, is replacing Keith Gretzky, who has left the Coyotes to become an amateur scout with an NHL team in the Eastern Conference.

“I’ve been here through five entry drafts with Keith as the head scout and felt that even though our staff performance was decent it needed to be better,” Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney told me. “After evaluating things over a period of time I just thought a change needed to be made. Keith worked very hard for us and was a very loyal and dedicated employee of the Coyotes. We wanted to keep Keith. We offered him a pro scouting position to keep him in the organization but he decided he preferred amateur scouting… So, we parted ways very amicably.”

Regarding Knickle, Maloney said: “I think Nashville has drafted as well as anybody in the league the last several years and Rick has been an important part to building that franchise from the very start. I like his reads on players and I think he has a very good eye for talent. I think he’ll do a good job for us.”

Knickle, who played goalie in the IHL, AHL and NHL over 18 seasons, says the draft is essential to building a successful team.

“The first-round guys are pretty cut and dried (and) you should get a good player,” Knickle said. “…The ones in the mid to late rounds, if you can find those diamonds in the rough so to speak, you’re going to make (the team) a lot better because it fills a lot more holes down the line.”

While with Nashville, Knickle played a key role in identifying prospects such as Dan Hamhuis, Scott Hartnell, Shea Weber, Scottie Upshall and Jordin Tootoo.

Maloney is excited to have Knickle on board and said he expects him to thrive in his new role – a very important one for the Coyotes.

“We have to be a top drafting team,” Maloney said. “I think our guys have worked very, very hard under some trying circumstances here given the amount of resources we have to spend in the scouting area. But we have to draft well and be a top drafting team and developing team… I think this is an area we can be better in.”

Knickle has a few ties to the Coyotes/the Phoenix area; he played 25 games for the IHL’s Phoenix Roadrunners in 1993-94, and he and Coyotes winger Ray Whitney were teammates with the IHL’s San Diego Gulls in 1991-92.

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Desert Dog Blog: Rick Knickle eager to begin his job