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SIOUX CITY | The Lancers’ loss may be the Musketeers’ gain.

Dropped by Omaha after being selected in the eighth round of the 2014 United States Hockey League Phase 1 Draft, Phillip Knies became a free agent of sorts. Scouts of the Sioux City Musketeers liked his continued improvement following a knee injury and made him their first-round pick in last month’s Phase 2 Draft.

“I blew out my knee last year and missed most of the season,” said the 17-year-old from Phoenix, Ariz., on Monday, the opening day of the Musketeers Main Camp at the IBP Ice Center. Born in Slovakia, Knies is one of 72 forwards vying for positions on the roster for the defending USHL Western Conference regular-season champions.

“I missed the Lancers’ camp and they dropped me from their list. I became a free agent to any team in the United States Hockey League.”

When Knies returned, he exploded in 22 games for the Tier 1 Elite Hockey League’s Colorado Thunderbirds’ 16-Under squad. The 5-foot-9, 175-pound left wing supplied 15 goals and 16 assists.

“It’s a great league,” he said. “There are a lot of teams, nationwide. It’s a really competitive league and there are really competitive games. There’s lots of exposure to USHL camps and college teams. It helped me develop and it helped me become the player I have become.”

Musketeers scouting director/assistant general manager Kalle Larsson said he first saw Knies last November. Larsson remained persistent and witnessed Knies “five, six or seven times more”. He added that Knies kept climbing every time he scouted him.

“Every game, he did something we noticed,” said Larsson. “Most of the time, it was hard work. He back-checks. He fore-checks. He’s on the scoresheet. It became clear to us in March he was one of the guys we really wanted.

“We hope he’s going to be able to kill penalties and block shots. He’s a character guy. When people see how he plays, he’s going to bring the rest of the group together.”

Knies describes himself as a patient, high-thinking forward who can finish plays and find teammates in key moments. He’ll bring a hard work ethic on an off the ice to Coach Jay Varady’s roster and will be reliable in all three zones.

Is there pressure on him as the Musketeers’ top pick?

“I was really excited when (the 2015 draft) happened and all this time leading up to (Main Camp), I was excited as well,” said Knies. “It does come with some pressure, but it’s something as a hockey player I like because it makes me perform that much better.”

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