RADNOR — Drew Knight’s point total reached a level that begged to be talked about.
The soft-spoken Radnor forward wouldn’t bring it up. Even at the end of the season, he won’t admit to keeping an eye on it. But within the program, or with his buddies around the league, or just to fill idle time before faceoffs, Knight was kept apprised by others as to how high his numbers were climbing.
“I tried to focus on the team and keep the individual stuff out of it, which I did a pretty good job of,” he said. “But some people – whether it’s my coaches or my teammates or other people I know through the league – would tell me, ‘Oh, I see you up there.’ And I’m like, yeah I guess.”
The temptation was hard to resist, as Knight’s point total shot upward by leaps and bounds – 50s, 60s, 70s. When it hit 81 at the end of the regular season, an assistant coach pointed out its proximity to the century mark, something Knight quickly shushed away.
More important to Knight than the number was what those points allowed. For a Radnor team that has largely been a non-factor in the ICSHL’s Central Division for most of Knight’s tenure, his lamp-lighting was a pathway to relevance.
“What’s more important is how the team does,” Knight said. “If it’s leading to team success, I’m thrilled with that. But if it’s not going to lead to that, there’s no point in getting all those points as an individual, because all that matters is as a team.”
Knight got the best of both worlds. In just 20 games, he posted 90 points, the kind of bananas game tallies reserved for mythical stat lines in junior hockey. That included nine points in three playoff games, one of which the Raptors won, on the way to a Flyers Cup berth.
For those standout performances, Knight is the 2023 Daily Times Hockey Player of the Year.
Joining him on the first team are fellow forwards Kain Walker of Penncrest, Dylan Kouba of Garnet Valley and Cardinal O’Hara’s Luke Melito; defensemen Nick Dignazio of Strath Haven and AJ Moleski of Haverford; and goalie Matthew Beatty of Marple Newtown.
All seven honorees are seniors. Dignazio is the lone holdover from last year. The All-Delco team is selected in consultation with area coaches.
Knight is Radnor’s first hockey Player of the Year since Chris Brennan in 2003 and 2004. He’s the first hockey All-Delco from Radnor since 2017 (Clayton Proctor). Those stats speak to the ebbs and flows of the Central, where in a class or two, teams can blink out of relevance or surge to new heights.
Radnor has ridden those peaks and valleys. Knight started as a freshman in a trough, the division ruled by elite powers and the gulf between tiers vast. But this year, when three of the four first-round Central playoff games were upsets according to the seeds and a seven seed in Penncrest won it all, showed how things have drifted in a more egalitarian direction.
“My freshman year, it was tough,” Knight said. “The competition was crazy. I was intimidated going into games, playing guys twice my size and these teams that have crazy talent. But I think it really evened out over my high school career and into this year where really anyone could beat anyone any night of the week. I just think that Radnor specifically is in great hands going forward.”
Knight is at the forefront of what he hopes is a Radnor renaissance. Two of the Raptors’ leading forwards, Ryan Carr and Tucker Graham, are juniors, as is top defenseman Wim Van Rossum. The Raptors started a freshman in goal most of the season in James Danner. Knight and Graham finished 1-2 in points in Delco, Graham tallying 48 in 17 games before an injury ruled him out of the playoffs.
Knight’s brilliance has given them time to develop, and Knight is quick to credit Graham and Carr as a big reason for his explosive season.
“All these goals that I’m scoring and assists that I’m giving, it’s because of my teammates,” he said. “I can’t score all these goals without being given great opportunities by Tucker, Ryan, Connor Baumann, Colin French. They’re all giving me great opportunities. It’s not really an individual thing for me because if it weren’t for the people around me, I would be nowhere near where I was.”
Knight was still the one finishing at rates rarely seen. Some of the tallies are ludicrous: Six goals against Great Valley-Phoenixville; six against Marple Newtown; six goals and two assists vs. Lower Merion; five and three against Garnet Valley; five and two against Haverford, the league’s best defense; four and three against eventual champion Penncrest.
His capstone performance came in the Central playoffs, with the sixth-seeded Raptors upsetting No. 3 Marple, 6-5, without Graham. The Tigers led 5-3 after two periods, before Knight went to work. His primary assist set up Matthew Brown to get within one. He fired the breakout pass to launch Colin French to the game-tying goal with five minutes to play, then put Radnor ahead 10 seconds later.
“That was one of my favorite memories from the four years, that game,” Knight said. “We were down two going into the third period and it’s a high-scoring game and as Tucker went down, we kind of figured that we’d need to play the lower scoring games because we wouldn’t be able to put up quite as many goals. We got that nice intermission between periods in the playoffs and everybody regrouped and we had coaches come in and talk, they left and as a team, we kind of all were pumping each other up and were getting ready for that period. We came out firing.”
Knight added two goals and an assist in falling to Penncrest in the next round, then hit 90 points with a goal and a helper in a 7-2 Flyers Cup loss to Council Rock North. Whatever the final point tally reached, there was no questioning that it added up to maximizing the potential of Radnor’s season.