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Prospect Rankings Update – April 16th, 2020

With all hockey completely halted, there’s no better time to re-rack the SinBin.vegas Prospect Rankings board. Three players were taken off the board with Zach Whitecloud playing more than 10 games, Keegan Kolesar turning 23, and Slava Demin being traded to the Blackhawks in the Robin Lehner deal.

That leaves 20 skaters and 4 goalies in the Golden Knights system, I rank them all.

Golden Knights Prospect Rankings
This page can always be found here.

(Last updated: April 16th, 2020)

Criteria to qualify for rankings:

  • Must be younger than 23 years old
  • Cannot have played more than 10 NHL games
  • Must be either under contract or drafted by the Golden Knights

Players are ranked based on value to the organization. The most important factor is the player’s ceiling, or how good they can eventually become, but also taken into consideration is how close they are to playing in the NHL and how likely they are to play in the NHL. This is NOT a ranking of which players are the best if a game were to be held today.

Recently Removed: Zach Whitecloud (NHL), Keegan Kolesar (Age), Slava Demin (Trade)

SKATERS

(Photo Credit: Ken Boehlke, SinBin.vegas)

1) Peyton Krebs (F)
Acquired: 2019 Entry Draft, 1st Round, #17 overall
Age: 19 (January 26, 2001)
Most Recent Team: Winnipeg Ice (WHL)
Previous Ranking: #1

Krebs did everything he was supposed to since the moment he was drafted. He got himself healthy, he had a chance to practice with the NHL team for a day, and then he went back to the WHL and dominated putting up 48 assists to lead his team despite playing only 38 of the team’s 63 games. The only disappointment was that he was not selected for Team Canada at the World Juniors, but that was more due to where he was in his rehab as opposed to his skill level and worthiness to be on the team.

More on Krebs
11/16/19 – Krebs is finally back from the Achilles injury. He skated in one practice with the Golden Knights before heading back to Winnipeg to play in the WHL. He’ll wear the “C” for the Ice and is expected to be a dominant force in the league again this year. The big test will come at the World Junior Championships in December. He’ll be one of the best players on the Team Canada roster, and coming off their disappointment last year, the pressure will be on.

7/5/19 – The Golden Knights first pick in the 2019 NHL Draft is everything and more that you can ask for out of a center prospect. He’s a 200 foot player, plays in all situations, has a high level of skill, drives the offense on his line, and has great hockey sense and compete level. Unfortunately, Krebs came to camp with an injury and wasn’t able to skate. Had he gone out and dominated camp, he would have had a real shot to have been #1 on this list due to his ceiling. Hopefully he makes it took rookie camp in September, if not, World Juniors will be his next real shot to show he’s ready. By then, Glass will probably have played in 10 games, so don’t be surprised if Krebs is atop this list the next time it is updated.

 

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

2) Jack Dugan (F)
Acquired: 2017 Entry Draft, 5th Round, #142 overall
Age: 22 (March 24, 1998)
Most Recent Team: Providence College (NCAA)
Previous Ranking: #2

It’s still a mystery how Dugan was not among the three finalists to win the Hobey Baker Award after leading college hockey in points the entire season. Even without the honor though he clearly defined himself as one of the best players in college hockey. Now the question is what’s next? He could stick around for one more year after missing out on the playoffs this year, or he could sign a contract and play with the AHL team in Vegas. Either way, he’s going to be pushing for an NHL spot by the back end of the 2020-21 season.

More on Dugan
11/16/19 – Since his terrific 2019 Development Camp, Dugan has taken his game to the next level absolutely dominating the NCAA. His 24 points in 10 games leads college hockey. Dugan recently mentioned on a podcast that he wants to “dominate” at the level he’s at before moves on. He’s doing that, and then some.

7/5/19 – Maybe the most impressive player at 2019 Development Camp, Dugan appears on the path to being one of the best picks in the Golden Knights 2017 draft class. He’s absolutely everywhere in the offensive zone whether his team has the puck or not. His skating looks excellent for as large as he’s become and his ability and willingness to carry the puck seems to have come a long way. The one thing missing with Dugan is his finishing ability. It just didn’t show up much at all despite having multiple chances in Dev Camp. He’s going back to Providence this year, and it wouldn’t shock me if he’s there for a few more, but when he’s done, he’s going to be in the picture for the Golden Knights, which is awesome for a 5th round pick.

1/8/19 – The fact that Dugan dropped three spots has much more to do with what I think of the system as a whole as to what I think of Dugan. In short, I really like this kid and think he’s going to be a good player someday. The problem is that NCAA kids take forever to get to the NHL and I don’t see any difference with him. As a freshman he’s put up 22 points in 20 games at Providence so he’s continuing to produce despite the rise in competition.

9/12/18 – Did not attend Rookie Camp

7/28/18 – The leap Dugan made from the 2017 Development Camp to 2018 was tremendous. He was a scoring machine in the scrimmages both putting the puck in himself and setting up teammates. Last year he scored 66 points in 54 games with the Chicago Steel. This year he’ll be making the leap to Providence College to play in the strong Hockey East conference. Don’t expect to see Dugan in a Golden Knights uniform anytime soon, it literally might be four years away, but this is a player with a lot of upside and will likely go from relative unknown in the Golden Knights prospect system to an impactful player on NHL ice in a hurry.

 

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

3) Lucas Elvenes (F)
Acquired: 2017 Entry Draft, 5th Round, #127 overall
Age: 20 (August 18, 1999)
Most Recent Team: Chicago Wolves (AHL)
Previous Ranking: #3

Elvenes turned in a great first full professional season in North America, leading the Wolves in points and ranking fourth among all rookies in the AHL. It’s a bit surprising that both Gage Quinney and Keegan Kolesar received call-ups before him, but age likely played the biggest factor in that decision. Next year will be big for Elvenes. It’s time to take that final step.

More on Elvenes
11/16/19 – Another fast riser on this list, Elvenes is all the way up to #3 because he’s taken the AHL by storm as a 20-year-old. He’s leading the Wolves, all AHL rookies, and ranks 2nd in the entire AHL in points with 21. He also leads the league in assists with 16 in 16 games. Elvenes is a playmaking forward that seemed to be slow to see his game translate to NHL-sized ice. No longer is that an issue as he’s scoring in every situation in the 2nd best league in the world, the AHL. He’s knocking at the door of getting a chance to show his stuff at the NHL level, but don’t expect his stay to be long if he does get that chance due to injury at some point soon.

7/5/19 – Admittedly, I’ve been all over the place on Elvenes, but the more I watch him, the more I like him. Plain and simply, he’s a playmaker and the more comfortable he is with the players he’s playing with, the more plays he makes. In Development Camp he and Dorofeyev were shredding defenses, creating scoring chances left and right. The smaller ice appears to be less and less of an issue for him and I think surrounding his with guys who can score will help him a lot. This season with the Wolves is going to be a big one for Elvenes. If he dominates, he’s going to fly up this list, if he’s just so so, he could be near the bottom soon.

1/8/19 – There is obviously an inherent bias towards guys directly after World Juniors, but I will admit, I went in with a keen eye on Elvenes looking for one thing, playmaking at even-strength. Finally, I saw it and I saw it in bunches while Sweden was still in the tournament. He looked dangerous almost every time he was on the ice and with a maligned Swedish forward group he was probably the second or third best forward on the team. Playing in the SHL appears to have him looking for the puck a bit more and becoming more active in the play. I’m still not 100% sold this is an NHL prospect, but he’s a lot closer now than I thought four months ago.

9/12/18 – Elvenes has been flying up the charts on prospect ranking charts all over the place, but not here. He moves up a bit because he showed out very well on the Golden Knights power play, but at 5-on-5 he continued to be invisible. In practice he looked like he was primed to go out and have a huge impact on the games, then he didn’t. Not even close to time to give up in him, but he’s got to figure out the even strength on the small ice.

7/28/18 – A member of Team Sweden for the second consecutive World Junior Summer Showcase, Elvenes needs to build on his last international appearance. He put up four assists and a goal in two games last year with the Swedish U20 team but his game hasn’t translated on the North American ice at Development Camp. He didn’t flash much at all during the scrimmages either year. Playing on the smaller ice may be a factor.

 

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

4) Kaedan Korczak (D)
Acquired: 2019 Entry Draft, 2nd Round, #41 overall
Age: 19 (January 29, 2001)
Most Recent Team: Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
Previous Ranking: #6

There’s nothing not to like about Korczak’s game. He’s got size, he’s a good skater, he’s physical, he’s calm on the puck, he can move the puck, and he’ll chip in offensively. His numbers will continue to look good in the WHL, but it’s all about how he looks against better competition going forward and unfortunately we aren’t going to get to see much of that any time soon.

More on Korczak
11/16/19 – Korczak looked really good at camp and he has taken that game to the WHL racking up 14 points in 19 games for the Kelowna Rockets. Korczak is the type of defenseman that the Golden Knights are desperately looking for at the NHL level. Of course, he’s not ready at this point (nor would he be available to them anyway) but he’s a mobile, puck-moving d-man who will chip in offensively while taking care of his own end. The next time we really get to see what Korczak has to offer will likely be for Team Canada in December. If he can show something special in that tournament, the 2nd round pick is going to be in the top-five on this list next time for sure.

7/5/19 – The Golden Knights moved up in the draft to select Korczak and it didn’t take long to show why they valued him so much. In his own end, he’s a rock, defending both with his feet (mainly by keeping terrific gaps) and his stick. But what impressed me most with Korczak was his willingness to jump into the rush, or even start a rush. He reminded me a lot of Nate Schmidt, where the entire offense just looks more dangerous in transition when he’s out there.

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Golden Knights Jersey Number Origin Stories

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The most recognizable characteristic about an NHL player, even more so than their name, face, or even how well they play hockey, is their number. Numbers were even more important for Vegas because with everyone new to the team that was the first way everyone was going to get to know the players. In theory, every number would come with a story. Of the 98 potential options, players had to have a reason to choose the one they wear every day. Right?

Well, we asked every player on the Golden Knights how they selected their jersey number, and while some have solid backstories, most don’t. Nonetheless, here they all are.

#3 – Brayden McNabb

I’ve just always worn it since junior, there’s really nothing behind it. I think I’ve always just liked 3 growing up, I just like the look of it.

#5 – Deryk Engelland

Probably just given to me, I don’t know. It was a long time ago (laughter). I was 5 or 7 growing up, but there’s no real reason for it.

#9 – Cody Glass

I was 9 when I was around 12 years old. It’s the number my brother wore, so that was kind of ironic that I ended up with it here. I’ve worn 8 most of the time but (Griffin) Reinhart had it so I had to go with something else.

#10 – Nic Roy

They just gave it to me. I had no control, but I’ve had it in the past. Had it for Team Canada in World Junior.

#14 – Nic Hague

My Dad wore it in minor hockey and junior B. I had it every year in minor hockey. The first year I did not wear it was my first year in Junior and then when I got to Chicago. I just got lucky that in the 3 years no one else wanted it.

#15 – Jon Merrill

I had a couple of options when I was coming here and it was just random that I took 15. I would have kept 7 but (Jason) Garrison had it and then I wanted 24 but Lindy (Oscar Lindberg) really wanted it. So I went with 15.

#19 – Reilly Smith

18 wasn’t available.

#20 – Chandler Stephenson

I always had numbers in the teens but I figured I’d try something new. It looks a little wide on the jersey, but I like it.

#21 – Cody Eakin

It was my Dad’s old number.

#26 – Paul Stastny

My Dad. He’s always been my favorite player and my mentor. Growing up I think you just see the number all the time. Everyone wants to be like their Dad, especially if they are a good role model. So for me, it was easy.

#27 – Shea Theodore

I wore 17 in junior, so I kind of like the 7’s. When I went and played in San Diego I wanted 17 but a guy already had it so I kinda just took 27. Then when I came to Vegas they gave me a pick and I just like the way it looked.

#28 – William Carrier

My brother’s birthday.

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Is Shea Theodore The Next Defensive Workhorse For Pete DeBoer?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

When Pete DeBoer was hired by the Golden Knights many of us had questions. One in particular was; will Shea Theodore’s role (higher TOI, tougher assignments, heavier workload, etc.) increase?

Thankfully, David Schoen of the RJ asked DeBoer yesterday after practice in Boston following Theodore’s heavy workload on Saturday.

https://twitter.com/DavidSchoenLVRJ/status/1219421411518898176

With a small sample size of only two games, it’s still premature to read into Theodore’s game logs too deeply, however his ice time was higher. Albeit, one ended in overtime.

Shea Theodore Average Time on Ice per Game

  • Games 1-49: 21:13 ATOI
  • Games 50-51: 25:44 ATOI

Remember, while coaching in San Jose, DeBoer relied heavily on his two talented mobile defensemen. In all situations.

Brent Burns averages 2018-2020:

  • 24:58 TOI
  • 18:55 Even-Strength
  • 2:51 Power Play
  • 2:31 Shorthanded

Karlsson averages: 2018-2020

  • 24:30 TOI
  • 19:02 Even-Strength
  • 3:07 Power Play
  • 2:41 Shorthanded

Of course, they’re established All-Star defenseman, but Theodore has the ability to log heavy minutes and play the workhorse role for his new coach.

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Carrier and Stephenson Won’t Change No Matter Which Line They End Up On

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Ever since he was traded to the Golden Knights, Chandler Stephenson has done everything he’s been asked to do. And he’s done that and more.

From centering the team’s most talented line, helping the penalty kill, and even scoring a game-winning goal in 3-on-3 overtime. Stephenson has done so well in his role that the team trusted him to play another, 1st line forward.

I don’t really think there’s too much of a challenge. With the type of players I’ve been playing with, you know they make my life really easy. Stoney, Patch, Smitty, Karly, are all All-Stars in my mind. They’re fun to play with. -Chandler Stephenson

You think it would take some time to adjust during a game to new linemates, even for the professionals. However, Stephenson feels no pressure to make immediate chemistry with anyone Gerard Gallant has assigned him with.

They do all the dirty work and they let me play my game without telling me where to go, or do this, do that. They just let me play. That’s nice and relaxing at the same time. -Stephenson

Position adjustment doesn’t bother Stephenson either. Mainly he’s been a center in Vegas, but he’s played plenty of wing in the NHL. Either position, he will find a way to pitch in.

You have a little bit more responsive at center. At wing, your more of a straight line. It’s not too much of difference for me since I’ve played so much over the years. At center, you know you need to be more defensive but for the most part it’s pretty similar. -Stephenson

The same goes for forward William Carrier. One of the original Golden Knights has mostly been relegated to the fourth line playing alongside Ryan Reaves, Tomas Nosek, Nicolas Roy, and others over three seasons. Lately though, he’s been bouncing around filing holes when needed.

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The Golden Knights Are Not Using The Right Goalie Combo On Back-To-Backs

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights are set to close out their 6th back-to-back of the 2019-20 season and 31st in franchise history.

They actually fare pretty well as a whole when playing games on back to back nights.

Overall – 31-23-6 (.567)
1st End – 16-11-3 (.583)
2nd End – 15-12-3 (.550)

Historically, they’ve been swept (losing both) in 10 of the 30 back-to-backs, but they’ve only exited without getting at least one point in six of those 10. All six are when both games are being played on the road.

However, this isn’t meant to be an article about how Vegas plays in back-to-backs (that will probably come later as they have a bunch of them coming up.) Instead, it’s meant to take a look at goalie selection in regards to back-to-backs.

Yesterday, Dom Luszczyszyn of The Athletic posted an article challenging the norm of switching goalies on back-to-backs.

For the past six years, every team in the league has quickly adopted the same method to managing goalie starts on back-to-backs: splitting starts between their two goalies. That was based on data, data that created a rule each team learned to follow. Six years later, that same data has changed with the effect size being significantly smaller than initially thought. It might be time to break that rule. -Dom Luszczyszyn, The Athletic

I wondered if the Golden Knights were seeing the same effect.

The Golden Knights have actually been one of the most aggressive teams in using the same goalie for both games of a back-to-back. In 2017-18 the same goalie played both games in 5.1% of NHL games, 2018-19 saw the number decrease to 4.2%, while this season it’s a paltry 2.6%.

However, Vegas has used the same goalie in 11 of their 30 back-to-backs (37%). They’ve done it twice this season with Fleury playing against Calgary and Los Angeles early in the year and Subban playing against the New York Rangers and New Jersey last week.

Of course, both of those instances were forced upon the Golden Knights. Subban was injured for Fleury’s and Fleury was away with the passing of his father for Subban’s. Of the 11 times the Golden Knights have done it, I consider eight of the 11 to be “forced.”

That being said, the numbers indicate the Golden Knights should actually be using this strategy way more often, on purpose, every time they have the chance.

Of the 11 times, the Golden Knights have won both games in six. They’ve gotten at least two points in eight of the 11, and they’ve only been swept in regulation just one time!

Marc-Andre Fleury is an incredible 7-1-2 when playing in both games of a back-to-back. Malcolm Subban is a fantastic 6-1-1 as well. Max Lagace’s 0-3-1 pulls down the average. So, with either Subban or Fleury playing both games, Vegas is 13-2-3!

Same Goalie In Both: 13-2-3 (.801)
Switch Goalies: 18-21-3 (.464)

Clearly, the Golden Knights need to be using the same goalie in both games of back-to-backs every single time. But, let’s just try to be fair and say that’s not possible due to the need for rest. Look at these numbers.

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Golden Knights Prospect Excited For A Chance To Play For Team Canada

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Golden Knights prospect Peter Diliberatore recently received some positive news from Team Canada. The young defenseman was invited back to Canada’s select camp, to possibly represent his home nation in the upcoming World Junior Championships.

The sophomore from Quinnipiac University has played every game this season and is fifth in scoring for the Bobcats. Last season, Diliberatore was named to the 2018-19 ECAC Rookie team and was fourth in NCAA hockey with a +22 plus/minus rating. Earlier this week, Diliberatore appeared on The Pipeline Show with Guy Flaming.

I didn’t really have set goals on points or anything. I wanted to make a statement in the lineup and play every game… I asked questions all around, see what I can do to get more playing time. Whether it was PK, or power play. -Diliberatore on The Pipeline Show

The Golden Knights 2018 6th round pick (180th overall) comes off very even-keeled and realistic with his young career from college, to Team Canada, and all the way to Vegas.

It’s a small, quiet school but at the same time I knew they were good at developing players to get to the next level. I thought that’s kind of where I need to fit in and be in where I can play right away, and not have to wait and sit out or anytime like that. -Diliberatore on The Pipeline Show

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An Idea On How To Deploy The Bottom Six When Cody Eakin Returns

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s not the way anyone envisioned it coming to be, but the 3rd line of William Carrier, Cody Glass, and Alex Tuch was formed three games ago. In those three games, the Golden Knights have earned points in each and won two on the road.

They’ve also received three goals and five assists from that line. They’ve created eight scoring chances in 26 minutes of play and have a 54% Corsi.

But where they’ve been best is in the eye test. Since the Golden Knights have been a franchise, they’ve never had a 3rd line look as good as Carrier, Glass, and Tuch have looked over the past three games. Tuch is driving offense, Glass is controlling the defensive end, and Carrier is winning puck battles helping set up the cycle to spend time in the offensive zone.

Tuch has returned to the right-wing, Glass to his natural center position, and Carrier is playing with the most offensive talent since he’s been a Golden Knight. It’s not the perfect line, but it’s certainly an upgrade on what they’ve gotten throughout this season with Cody Eakin as the center.

Tuch scored just one goal in 10 games with Eakin. He has three with Glass and Carrier. Glass has just three assists in 23 games playing with Eakin. He has two in three games with Tuch and Carrier.

However, the fourth line hasn’t looked quite the same without Carrier. Ryan Reaves has struggled without Carrier recording just five hits in three games while Carrier was on the 3rd line. Tomas Nosek still appears to play better as a center than a winger. And Stephenson scored the goal, but doesn’t quite seem a match for Nosek and Reaves.

Eakin remains out week-to-week with an upper body injury, so the decision on where to put him when he returns is not imminent, but after just three games on the road, it might be time to start considering where else he might fit.

The key question moving forward will become usage. Eakin has averaged about 15 minutes of ice time each season with the Golden Knights. That’s normal for a 3rd line center with penalty-killing duties. But, if he finds himself relegated to the 4th line, his TOI will likely drop under 10 minutes per game as has been the case for Reaves in 66% of games this season. That also means relying more heavily on Glass, something Gerard Gallant has not shown a willingness to do. (He’s played more than 14 minutes in less than half his NHL appearances.)

Vegas has never used an interchanging line system throughout an entire game, but they may want to consider it when Eakin is ready to return. With Glass, Eakin, Carrier, Reaves (or Nosek), Tuch, and Stephenson, there are multiple combinations that can be deployed depending on the situation.

Rather than lay out the standard two lines and roll them over, they could be mixed and matched depending on draw location, score, matchup, and stamina. Here are just a few of the logical trios that could be made out of that group.

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Stephenson Helps, But VGK Still Short On Depth Scoring Options

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights have been fortunate thus far this season in regards to injuries. At any given time they’ve never been without more than two forwards, missing only Alex Tuch and Cody Eakin at various times.

Of course, health is important for any team, but it’s especially crucial for the Golden Knights due to their lack of depth in the minor leagues.

Thus far, just three forwards have made both NHL and AHL appearances in the Vegas system. Brandon Pirri, Valentin Zykov, and Nic Roy have only six points despite racking up 25 combined games. Between the entire trio, they’ve yet to find the back of the net in the NHL.

Meanwhile, at the AHL level, those same three forwards have tallied six goals and 12 assists for 18 points in just 22 total games. And, aside from 20-year-old Lucas Elvenes, Pirri and Zykov rank as the top scorers on the Chicago Wolves, and Roy comes in 6th. They are the best the system has, and we’ve already seen what they can (or can’t) do at the NHL level.

I raised this concern during the offseason after the Golden Knights watched four of their top-six AHL scorers leave for other teams or leagues.

Luckily, it’s yet to bite Vegas as they haven’t been forced to dip into that depth. Of course, the addition of Chandler Stephenson pushes everyone down one rung on the ladder, but it’s still a serious issue.

Brandon Pirri had a hot run with the Golden Knights last season and certainly stands as a the best fill-in option, but beyond him, there’s not much there Vegas can rely on.

Elvenes is playing in his first professional season in North America, and is thriving, but he’s likely not cut out for the NHL grind yet. Zykov is playing with Chicago now, but the chances he ever returns to Vegas remain slim after his PED suspension. Then there are Gage Quinney, Curtis McKenzie, Tye McGinn, and Nic Roy. Roy was the clear front-runner of the group, and in his seven-game stint with the Golden Knights, offense wasn’t a word that came to mind.

35% into the season, it hasn’t mattered. Hopefully, it doesn’t in the remaining 65% either.

Special Podcast: VGK Salary Cap Talk w/ Hart Levine Of PuckPedia.com

For the first time in franchise history the Golden Knights are starting to press up against the salary cap. That’s led to situations like season-opening and long-term IR, cap implications on suspensions, and of course, the shuttling of the Nics from the AHL to NHL.

I sat down with Hart Levine of PuckPedia.com to go over all sorts of salary cap and CBA related topics.

Quick Stint In AHL Helped Nic Hague Upon Return To NHL

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

When Golden Knights training camp ended and the team headed into Opening Night against the San Jose Sharks, Nic Hague was on the NHL roster.

He was a healthy scratch the first game of the year, but an injury to Nate Schmidt thrust Hague into the lineup. He played seven straight games and was replaced by Jake Bischoff for four. He played one more at the NHL level before being assigned to the Chicago Wolves upon Schmidt’s return.

Obviously I go down there and I’m in a position where I’m playing big minutes, I’m on the power play, penalty kill, regular shift 5-on-5, so to go down and get a touch in all those areas it was nice, but I don’t want to be there, I want to be here. -Hague

Hague played in four AHL games, racked up two points and 13 shots, while playing top-pair minutes. But it’s what happened after those four games that really seemed to change the course of Hague’s young NHL career.

Since coming back to the NHL on November 5th, Hague has played in every game but one (VGK’s worst game since, at Washington).

Truthfully I think the more those kids play the more confident he’s going to get. When they look confident on the ice, when you notice it and when I notice it, that’s when you are going to be an NHL hockey player and that’s what I’ve liked about him lately. -Gerard Gallant

Hague’s play since coming back has been substantially better than it was in his first stint in the NHL to start the year. He’s standing guys up at the blue line, his gap control has improved, he’s been more physical, he’s starting to utilize his long reach, and most importantly, his offensive game is beginning to shine through.

He’s been way more confident with the puck. Often now you see him not dumping it in every time he’s got it. That’s where you see the maturation process in a player and you see it with him. -Nate Schmidt

Personally, I think that four-game stretch in the AHL made a huge difference for the giant left-handed defenseman. There are stats that point to it, but it’s more about how he looks. His reads have been better and quicker. His decision-making in all three zones has improved, and for the first time in his career, we finally saw him take advantage of the length of his stick to help create a goal against Chicago.

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