Pick any rookie, whether they were picked in the 1st, 2nd, 7th round, or not picked at all, and you’ll find an imperfect player. The Golden Knights have their choice of five of them as they look for the best rookie defenseman to make the team out of camp. Through a few weeks of camp, the competition has begun to separate itself with Dylan Coghlan and Zach Whitecloud rising to the top of the class while Jimmy Schuldt and Jake Bischoff have lagged a bit.
Floating somewhere between those four is Nic Hague, the 2017 2nd round pick who stands 6’6″ tall and weighs in at over 210 pounds. He has terrific hands, especially for his size and position, and he’s lethal from the point on the power play. His decision making is good, he sees the ice well, and he has the type of personality that makes you want to follow him. But concerns about his foot speed have left many, including myself, wondering if he’s indeed ready to take the leap into the NHL as a 20-year-old.
Simply put, he’s a good prospect, but he’s far from perfect.
On Thursday he was tasked with the toughest test of his professional hockey career. Paired with Nate Schmidt, Hague was set to take on the lion’s share of minutes against the Kings top line of Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, and Alex Iafallo. For the most part, the immediate reviews on Hague’s performance were good.
It was a little bit intimidating I guess you can say. I felt like I was playing against Kopitar and Brown most of the night, but I thought I settled in and playing with Nate makes it easy. I felt good. Once you get past the bright lights of it all I thought I defended against them well and I limited their chances as much as I could. -Hague
I thought he played real well last night. Thought he was big and strong and solid and played a good game. -Gallant
However, upon a deeper look, you’ll find the performance was also imperfect.
Let’s start with the good, because I really like Nic Hague, I think he has a bright future, and quite frankly, I don’t feel like being the jerk who leads with the bad.
Where Hague is his best is when the puck is moving in the right direction (meaning towards the opposition’s goal). Whether that’s breakouts, stretch passes through the neutral zone, or in the offensive zone, he truly is a weapon. On the power play he had a number of positive moments standing on the blue line making himself dangerous. But where his game shined the most was in his puck control when he had time on the puck. There were two plays, in particular, that should have anyone reading this excited about Hague’s future.
This looks simple. It’s not. It’s a perfect find, to the best player on the ice, and it’s done quickly, with precision, with a defender right in front of him. That’s a good play and it nearly leads to a goal and a primary assist for Hague.