Fargo Force forward Cole Knuble capped an impressive junior hockey career with one of the top awards the level has to offer.
Knuble is this year’s winner of the Dave Tyler Junior Player of the Year Award, which is presented annually to the most outstanding American-born player in junior hockey.
“It’s a huge honor and I’m very thankful,” Knuble said. “It’s really cool and it makes me think back to the year and all of the memories I had with my teammates and the Force organization. It was a great year with all those guys.”
Knuble is the first player in franchise history to receive the award.
Several current NHL players who previously won the award include Sean Farrell (Montreal), Jake Sanderson (Ottawa), Jack Hughes (New Jersey), Rem Pitlick (Montreal), Kyle Connor (Winnipeg), Blake Coleman (Calgary), Jeff Petry (Pittsburgh) and Joe Pavelski (Dallas), among others.
The Grand Rapids, Michigan, native, and son of former longtime NHLer and Stanley Cup champion Mike Knuble, admits that he looked up the list of previous winners.
“It was really cool to see all of those guys who won it before,” Cole Knuble said. “That’s what I want to be someday, is one of those guys playing in the NHL for a long time. It was cool to see that and unbelievable to think about.”
The award is selected by a blue-ribbon panel of junior hockey coaches and administrators. Criteria for the award also includes having played for a U.S.-based junior hockey team. The honor is named after Dave Tyler, who served on the USA Hockey Board of Directors for 32 years and played an instrumental role in the development and growth of junior hockey in the United States.
“When you think about all of the great players that I’ve played against this year in junior hockey, it makes me feel super honored,” Knuble said. “It’s a little unbelievable when I think about it, but I’m happy to have won it.”
Knuble also received the USHL’s 2023 Curt Hammer Award for outstanding performance, leadership, pride and determination. As an alternate captain, Knuble helped lead Fargo to the 2023 Clark Cup Final.
“It was an amazing year,” Knuble said. “The Force is a top organization in the USHL, and we proved it this year. I had so much fun playing with all of my teammates, we had a lot of good times and it’s a year that I’ll remember forever.”
Knuble finished the 2022-2023 regular season with 30 goals and 66 points in 57 games. He was also tied for third in the league with a plus-31. An All-USHL First Team pick, Knuble helped the Force to a 40-14-4-4 record as the league’s top team in the regular season.
“I put in a lot of work during the summer,” Knuble said. “I felt prepared for the season, I was excited for the year and wanted to prove some people wrong after last year. That was my goal and I think I did that. It was fun, I got to play with some great players and I couldn’t have done it without those guys.”
Knuble upped his game in the postseason, as he finished the Clark Cup playoffs leading all skaters in goals. He tallied a point per game and scored two game-winning goals during the playoffs.
“The playoffs are definitely harder because it’s more physical and there’s less time,” Knuble said. “That’s when big players step up and that’s what I tried to do. Playoff hockey, those one-goal games – those are the moments that I like. We came up short, but it was a ton of fun.”
Knuble also served as captain of the 2022 U.S. Junior Select Team that won the 2022 World Junior A Challenge. Knuble led the U.S. with nine points and six assists in six games, was named tournament MVP and to the 2022 World Junior A Challenge All-Star Team. Knuble also participated in January’s BioSteel All-American Game in Plymouth, Michigan, about a two-hour drive from his hometown.
“I got to play closer to home, so a lot of family and friends were able to make it,” Knuble said. “That event is really fun and a big spotlight.”
Now, Knuble is focused on the next steps of his career as a Notre Dame commit. He plans to meet teammates and the staff again as they begin training for the upcoming season. He’s also eyeing the upcoming NHL Draft with a bit of a chip on his shoulder.
“I wasn’t selected last year and I felt like I deserved to be,” Knuble said. “This year, I used it as motivation to work even harder and prove people wrong. I guess now I hope my work pays off. That’s all I’m thinking about, but this season I feel like I controlled what I could control. Now, it’s not up to me, so we’ll wait and see what happens.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.