The Columbus Blue Jackets have locked up one of their 2020 draft picks, signing Samuel Knazko to a three-year entry-level contract. The Slovakian defenseman spent last season in the Finnish junior league and is expected to play for Liiga’s TPS in 2021-22.
You may have noticed Knazko at the recent World Championship, where he suited up eight times for Slovakia but failed to record a point. The 18-year-old also captained his country’s World Junior team this year, his second time at the tournament despite his young age. Selected 78th overall (with the pick Columbus received in the Max Domi–Josh Anderson swap), Knazko is a born playmaker that has racked up assists at the junior level, including scoring 15 points in 23 games for the TPS U20 team this season.
Though he likely won’t be joining the Blue Jackets organization right away, there are high hopes for the 6’0″ defenseman. If he does end up with the Liiga side, he’ll be tested at the professional level against opponents sometimes more than a decade his senior. The World Championship was a taste of that and would have shown Knazko exactly what kind of talent awaits him in the NHL. Should he spend 2021-22 anywhere outside of the NHL, the first year of his entry-level deal will not be burned.