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Tag: Nic Hague

Give The 8th Defenseman A Look Before It’s Too Late

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Throughout the brief history, the Golden Knights have never shown a fear of mixing up the roster. Whether it’s shipping a guy back to Russia, the multiple trades involving Tobias Lindberg, utilizing waivers, dealing with contract situations, or something else, George McPhee’s roster always seems to have a storyline.

However, up until late January of the second season, there was a fairly hard and fast rule the GM liked to follow, and that was always rostering eight defensemen on the NHL squad. Since giving away trading Brad Hunt the Golden Knights have had just seven blueliners with all seven being in the rotation.

This is all fine and well if the team is healthy. Nick Holden, Jon Merrill, or Colin Miller are all terrific options and not many teams have a defenseman sitting in the press box on a nightly basis as good as any of those three. But, it’s the depth behind them that should be a bit of cause for concern.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

As of right now, and this isn’t going to change, the Golden Knights eighth defenseman is either Zach Whitecloud, Jake Bischoff, or Nic Hague. Between the three of them, there’s a total of one game of NHL experience. That game belongs to Whitecloud, who played the most meaningless NHL game possible, the final game of the year when the Golden Knights literally had nothing to play for.

Last year, only two of the 16 playoff teams used more than seven defensemen during their postseason runs. Both of those two happened to be Golden Knights opponents though: the Kings and the Jets. Only the Lightning, Leafs, Blue Jackets, and Penguins used the same six throughout the whole postseason though.

It may be unlikely that the Golden Knights actually have to end up relying on an eighth guy, but with the situation Vegas is in now, they would be well served to prepare for this scenario.

By this I mean calling up one or two of these blueliners for the final five games of the season and giving them a little experience, even if it’s meaningless in the scope of the season.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The thought of Hague or Bischoff playing their very first NHL game in the Western Conference Final scares the bejeezus out of me, and it should McPhee too. Not many teams have five games to burn before the real games start. It would serve two makers to get at least one of the AHL guys in there.

First, it gets their feet wet in case DefCon Blueline does indeed pop up in the playoffs. A little experience goes a long way. Heck, even a bunch of practices with the NHL team wouldn’t hurt. Second, it would allow Gerard Gallant a chance to run through all seven NHL defensemen to give them a night or two off.

Rocky Thompson, McPhee, and Gallant know which one of the three they think they’d trust the most if the time does indeed come, but why not get a little more intel? Personally, it doesn’t matter which one it is to me, but let me be the first to raise the flag to say this should happen, like tomorrow.

Cryptic But Telling Quote From Gallant On Young Players Making The Roster

It still feels like Hague has a bit of ground to make up on Brannstrom, but there’s plenty of time to do it and the roster spot is open for someone to take. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

With just under two weeks left before Opening Night, the Golden Knights still have three young defensemen still in camp competing for a spot on the roster.

Erik Brannstrom, Nic Hague, and Jake Bischoff have distanced themselves from the pack and with Nate Schmidt suspended and Shea Theodore likely to miss the start of the season, it appears a roster spot or two is open for a rookie.

Brannstrom will play in his fourth consecutive preseason game paired with veteran Nick Holden tonight. Hague and Bishoff will each play in their third, paired with each other in all three.

Jack Adams winner Gerard Gallant was asked in today’s press conference if he and the organization prefer to have a player playing in the AHL rather than a healthy scratch on the NHL roster. He essentially passed on that question saying it’s George McPhee’s decision but did offer something of note when pressed further.

It’s always been we’re taking our best players. It’s not like the situation we had last year, if that’s what your trying to get to, it’s not like that situation, we want to win it’s a completely different scenario than it was last year. -Gerard Gallant

Last year the Golden Knights were expected to be among the worst teams in the NHL, and they were managed that way as well. Rather than risk losing a player on waivers, they sent Alex Tuch and Shea Theodore to the AHL to start out the season. There was also the Vadim Shipachyov situation. It ended up resulting in Jason Garrison and Griffin Reinhart on the opening night roster.

This year, however, especially with Schmidt and Theodore missing, there’s a different feeling to how the initial roster will be constructed. At this point, it seems inevitable that at least one of Brannstrom, Hague or Bischoff will make the team.

The leader appears to be Brannstrom, but Hague has been electric on the power play, and Bischoff appears to be the most responsible of the bunch. There are still four preseason games and about a week of practices left for McPhee, Gallant, and company to make the call, but you can pretty much go to the bank with the idea that there will be a rookie defenseman on the roster come October 4th.

(Unless Shea Theodore signs and returns to camp between now and then.)

Young Defensemen Presented With Rare Opportunity

Yesterday it seemed nearly impossible for Brannstrom to make the roster. Today, it’s absolutely realistic. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity. -Albert Einstein

Yep, started an article with an Einstein quote, deal with it. But seriously, that quote could not be more perfect for Erik Brannstrom, Zach Whitecloud, and Nic Hague.

Prior to the suspension of Nate Schmidt, the Golden Knights appeared to have a bit of a logjam of defensemen which was going to make it nearly impossible for a waiver exempt player to win a job out of the training camp. However, with Schmidt out 20 games, and the potential of Shea Theodore missing games due to contract negotiations, all of a sudden at least one spot appears to be wide open for one of the Golden Knights young blueliners.

Whitecloud is the obvious leading candidate to claim that roster spot being the eldest of the trio and having spent over three months with the team during the playoff run a year ago. Whitecloud is also a physically mature 21-year-old who plays a fairly responsible defensive game suitable to fit into an NHL roster.

That being said, Brannstrom and Hague suddenly enter camp with a much more realistic shot of sticking in Vegas rather than heading to Chicago come October 4th. Brannstrom will have to prove he’s trustworthy and isn’t the insanely high risk-reward player we’ve come to know him as, and Hague will have to prove he can skate with NHL caliber wingers.

The question will come down to usage. In order to make it worthwhile for any of these three players to be on the NHL roster, they’ll have to prove they should be in the lineup, not just on the team. There’s no sense in putting a waiver-exempt player in the press box when he could be developing in the AHL.

Unlike the scenario Alex Tuch and Shea Theodore found themselves in last year, where despite clearly being among the top 23 players on the team they were not given spots on the NHL roster, Whitecloud, Brannstrom, and Hague (and you can throw in Coghlan, Bischoff, and Oligny if you please) simply have to prove they’re good enough to play in the NHL and they’ll be on the roster.

It’s a tall task, no doubt, but this year is a lot different than last year… at least for the defenseman. Sorry, Cody Glass, Nick Suzuki, Lucas Elvenes, and Tomas Hyka the forward spots are almost certainly not going to anyone with waiver-exempt status.

Vegas Rookie Faceoff: 6 Team NHL Rookie Tournament Coming To City National Arena

The biggest event in City National Arena history starts on September 8th. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen) 

The Golden Knights practice facility, City National Arena will host a six-team, three-day “tournament” featuring top NHL prospects. The six teams participating are the Vegas Golden Knights, Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche, Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks. It’s being called the Vegas Rookie Faceoff.

Each team will play three games with all nine games being held at City National Arena. Games will be played on September 8th, 9th, and 11th with the Golden Knights rookies taking on the Avalanche, Sharks, and Kings.

Here’s the full schedule for the event.

Saturday, Sept. 8
Game 1 – ARI vs. SJS, 3 p.m. PT
Game 2 – LAK vs. ANA, 5 p.m. PT
Game 3 – COL vs. VGK, 7 p.m. PT

Sunday, Sept. 9
Game 1 – LAK vs. ARI, 3 p.m. PT
Game 2 – COL vs. ANA, 5 p.m. PT
Game 3 – VGK vs. SJS, 7 p.m. PT

Tuesday, Sept. 11
Game 1 – ANA vs. ARI, 11 a.m. PT
Game 2 – SJS vs. COL, 11:30 a.m. PT
Game 3 – LAK vs. VGK, 2:30 p.m. PT

Rookie tournaments are fairly common in the NHL as they offer a chance for teams to play games against different opponents in a short period of time without having to travel. The Red Wings have hosted a tournament in Traverse City, MI for the past 20 years and includes eight teams. Toronto and Buffalo host similar tournaments as well.

Last year the Golden Knights traveled to El Segundo to play a pair of rookie games against the Los Angeles Kings.

Ticket information has not yet been released for the Vegas Rookie Faceoff. However, fans interested in tickets can fill out this contact form to be alerted when they are available.

The games are expected to be available either on TV and/or via Internet stream, but details have not been announced at this point.

These games will be an excellent opportunity for fans to see Golden Knights top prospects, Cody Glass, Nick Suzuki, Erik Brannstrom, and Nic Hague. Plus, the 5th overall pick from 2018, Barrett Hayton (ARI), the 4th overall pick from 2017, Cale Makar (COL) and the 3rd overall pick from 2015, Dylan Strome (ARI) are expected to participate. Other top prospects like Gabe Vilardi (LAK), Kale Clague (LAK), Sam Steel (ANA), Vladislav Kamenev (COL), Conor Timmins (COL), and Ryan Merkley (SJS) should all play as well.

Hopefully, the Vegas Rookie Faceoff becomes an annual thing because it’s going to be a lot of fun to watch.

Who We’re Watching At Development Camp

Four of a Kind (Cody Glass, Nick Suzuki, Erik Brannstrom, Nic Hague)

href=”http://sinbin.vegas/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/VGKCamp172.jpg”> It’s going to take a lot, but this year McPhee may actually consider giving a roster spot to a rookie. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)[/

The question for these four is if any of them are ready to take the next step to play in the NHL next season. George McPhee called it a long shot that any of the four make the roster, but if they are going to, the path starts now. They’d have to clearly rise above everyone else to even have a chance. Last year, Brannstrom was the most impressive, but the junior seasons of Glass, Suzuki, and Hague give hope they’ll come in and shine this week.

Zach Whitecloud

Whitecloud has a chance to be this year’s Alex Tuch. Last year the 21-year-old Tuch looked like a man amongst boys at Development Camp and it began his path to earning a spot on the Golden Knights roster full time. As it currently stands, there does look to be a spot open for Whitecloud to slide into, but he has to be great starting this week to get it. Whitecloud won’t be the oldest player in camp, but it needs to look like he is. He should be without question the most pro-ready player at Development Camp. By the time the week is out, making sure that is clear would go a long way to McPhee penciling him into the plans to start out next season.

Jimmy Schuldt

Many of the players at Development Camp for the Golden Knights are not under Vegas’ control, Schuldt is the most intriguing of them all. Like Whitecloud was a year ago, Schuldt is one of the most coveted undrafted NCAA free agents and will be free to sign with any team when his next season at St. Cloud University is over. A Hobey Baker finalist, he’s an offensive-minded defenseman who was the captain of his team as a junior.

Last year at this time he was in the Montreal Canadiens Development Camp and the Habs have reportedly been keeping their eyes on Schuldt ever since.  McPhee proved a year ago that he’s willing to sign a player like Schuldt and hand him an immediate roster spot right out of college. Being invited to Vegas’ camp is a good sign the Golden Knights like the player and may consider signing him when he’s eligible. However, coming to camp doesn’t always mean you have a leg up on signing the player. Zach Whitecloud was in Kings camp last year, and we all know how that worked out.

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Offseason Outlook: Defensemen

Through the course of the playoffs, the surprise unit for the Golden Knights were the defensemen. They completely shut down the Kings, they stifled the Sharks, and they bent but didn’t break against the Jets. Then, in the Stanley Cup Final, it kind of fell apart for the Vegas blueliners.

So, as we head into the offseason the burning question for George McPhee and the Golden Knights front office is whether or not they need to add to bolster their defense or of the missing piece is already on the roster.

Here’s a look at who the Golden Knights currently have under their control.

Nate looks like he’s become a star in the NHL. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Established and Signed
Brayden McNabb, Nate Schmidt, Deryk Engelland, Jon Merrill, Brad Hunt

While this list contains 310 games played and three players who played all 20 playoff games, there are really only two fully reliable options as full-time starters moving into 2018-19. McNabb and Schmidt are expected to be stalwarts on the Golden Knights blue line this season and moving forward. They may not be paired together again next season, but they’ll certainly be in the top four.

Engelland is a bit of a mystery as he probably had the best season of his career at the age of 35. The question is can he continue playing at that consistent level as he heads into the final few seasons of his career.

Then there are Merrill and Hunt. Hunt is a player that’s bounced around the NHL and AHL and has never really gotten a full-time shot to prove himself. The reason for that is because he’s a bit of a liability defensively due to his size. He’ll have to play well in camp once again to make the roster, but even if he doesn’t, Hunt will be a good option in the event that a puck-moving defenseman becomes unavailable during the season. Merrill is a bit of a different story as he’s more of a defensive-minded player but has the ability to pinch in and help out offensively. The Golden Knights signed Merrill to an extension last season which indicates they believe in him, but it’s still not probable that he’s a 60+ game defenseman next season.

Established and under VGK control
Colin Miller, Shea Theodore

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Rookies Considered “Long Shots” To Make The Roster Next Season

As Development Camp approaches, “when will these guys play in the NHL” is bound to become the prevailing topic du jour. However, the general manager of the team has been preaching a message of patience.

Those are probably long shots (to make the roster next year). We did a real good job drafting them and that’s the first thing you have to do and the second thing you have to do is develop them properly. – George McPhee

Cody Glass (2017, #6 overall) and Nick Suzuki (2017, #13 overall) both recorded over 100 points in juniors a year ago. Both are likely to make the jump to the AHL in 2018.

UPDATE: CHL/AHL/NHL rules do not allow Glass or Suzuki to play in the AHL next season. Both are too young. So, like this season, if either do not make the NHL roster out of camp, they will be returned to their junior team and cannot join the NHL roster until their junior season is complete.

Brannstrom might have the most experience against men, but Glass could easily turn out to be the closest to ready. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Erik Brannstrom (2017, #15 overall) played his entire season in the professional league in Sweden and was one of the final cuts on the Swedish World Championship team at the age of 19. He may be the most “pro-ready” but defenseman usually take a bit longer to make it to the NHL.

Finally, Nic Hague (2017, #34 overall) was named the best defenseman in the entire CHL. This award has been previously won by Ryan Ellis, Karl Alzner, Dougie Hamilton, and Ivan Provorov. The problem for Hague is that due to his size he projects as a much more “stay-at-home” style player and his defensive skating skill is likely not ready to go against the stars of the NHL.

It’s a steep climb for all four of these Golden Knights prospects to make the team and while McPhee isn’t expecting it, he’s at least open-minded to the idea.

They’re going to have to be really really good to make this club… They are young guys and you are stepping into a league with guys with families and everything else. Sometimes it’s like taking a kid from 8th grade and putting him in 12th grade. It doesn’t always work. -McPhee

Development Camp begins June 26th at City National Arena. (For the full scheudule click through)

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“Hague Is Going To Be The Captain Of The Vegas Golden Knights At Some Point”

With the 34th pick in the NHL Entry Draft, the Vegas Golden Knights selected Nic Hague, a 6’6″ 220 pound defenseman from the OHL’s Mississauga Steelheads.

Hauge ranked as a first rounder in most publications and was consistently in the top 10 when ranking just defensemen.

The concern, like most big guys playing hockey, was whether or not he would be able to skate at an NHL level due to his size. Considering the Golden Knights specifically discussed the importance of skating as a top priority, he must have passed the test for McPhee, McCrimmon, and the boys.

We’ve heard a lot about Hague since July 24th when he selected with the 3rd pick in the 2nd round of the draft, but this distinction was new.

I think Hague is going to be the Captain of the Vegas Golden Knights at some point in time. The way he talks, the way he commands the players around him, his stature. He was the OHL Scholastic Player of the Year last year. He is a really impressive young man. –Gary Lawless, VGK Insider on SinBin.vegas Podcast

In a profile on Sportsnet Hague described school as “more important than hockey” and it showed out winning the Bobby Smith Trophy for OHL Academic Player of the Year. Of the 12 players to win the award prior to Hague, five of them went on to be captains or assistants in the NHL, including Connor McDavid, Dustin Brown, Matt Duchene, Ryan Ellis, and Steven Stamkos.

He’s consistently described as well-spoken, mature, and conducts himself like a pro.

Apparently he’s got a real mean streak in him. I’ve watched him shoot the puck, he can really fire it. -Lawless

He proved that by going completely nuts on a guy in the OHL playoffs. It’s pretty gnarly, check it out. Hague was suspended following the late punch, but he clearly showed some leadership qualities as the biggest guy on the team sticking up for his teammates.

We’re still looking at least a year or two before Hague even makes his debut at T-Mobile Arena, but he’s clearly made an impression on the reporter inside the building.

Are we looking at Chris Pronger light? You sure hope so. -Lawless

We’ve also seen names like Derian Hatcher, Adam Foote, and Scott Stevens. High praise that’s gonna be tough to live up to, but I hope he lives up to it too. I hope so too.

**Lawless made these comments on the most recent SinBin.vegas Podcast. If you don’t listen to our podcast, I’m not sure I can still like you.**

Three Golden Knights On Hockey Canada World Junior Summer Showcase Roster

This summer from July 28th to August 5th in Plymouth, Michigan, USA Hockey is hosting 2017 World Junior Summer Showcase. Teams from the US, Canada, Sweden, and Finland will participate in the week-long camp meant to prepare teams for December’s IIHF World Junior tournament.

Golden Knights Cody Glass, Nick Suzuki, and Nic Hague were all selected to participate for Hockey Canada in the camp. Nolan Patrick (2017, 2nd overall), Cale Makar (2017, 4th overall), and Pierre-Luc Dubois (2016, 3rd overall) are also part of the Canadian roster.

The top four picks in this year’s draft from the United States, Casey Mittelstadt (8th overall), Josh Norris (19th overall), and Kailer Yamamoto (22nd overall) are all on the American roster.

Rosters for Sweden and Finland have yet to be released, but we can expect to see Erik Brannstrom and possibly Lucas Elvenes on the list for Sweden.

Team Canada’s first game is on August 1st.

Update: Brannstrom is on Sweden’s roster. Elvenes is not. The Golden Knights do not have a representative on Finland or the United States teams. See all rosters here

Golden Knights Picks From Rounds 2-7

The Golden Knights had a total of 10 picks coming into the day. They traded one away for a prospect. Here’s a quick rundown of each player selected. See the three first round picks here.

Round 2 (#34) – Nic Hague – An incredibly tall defenseman from the OHL in Canada. He’s got one of the best shots of all prospects in the draft. His skating needs some work due to the fact that he grew a lot quickly. 6’6″ will put him among the tallest defensemen in the NHL. He says he models his game after Vitor Hedman and Colton Paryako.

Round 2 (#45) – TRADE – VGK trades #45 for Keegan Kolesar – The 69th pick in the 2015 draft from the Columbus Blue Jackets. He’s a tough winger who spends a lot of his team beating people up. This being said, the guy can score as well, having put up 56 goals in 118 games over the past two seasons in the WHL.

Round 2 (#62) – Jake Leschyshyn – The son of former NHLer with the Nordiques, Huuricanes, Senators, among others, Leschyshyn is a solid center. He tore his ACL in February, but he said in March that he expects to be back on the ice for training camp. Another WHL product continuing the trend of players Kelly McCrimmon knows very well.

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