Nicolas Hague is a staple in the Vegas Golden Knights’ lineup. In his second professional season, he has left his stamp on their defense corps. Jan. 21, 2020 will be a day the 21-year-old will remember forever, after scoring his first NHL goal against the Boston Bruins.
Here’s a look at how he got here.
Pre-Draft and Junior Days
In Hague’s draft year, many scouts were not high on him because of his offensive game. However, after a strong second half of the season with the Mississauga Steelheads, he finished with 18 goals and 46 points. In 18 playoff games, he added one goal and 12 points to increase his stock before the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.
His combination of size, smarts and ability to hammer the puck from the point had him labeled as a late first-round pick. However, his name wasn’t called on the first day, and the Golden Knights selected him 34th overall.
He returned to the Steelheads the following season and was named captain in his final year. He led the team in points with 78 and scored 35 goals, to lead all defensemen in the Ontario Hockey League.
Coming into the professional ranks as a 20-year-old is an adjustment for players moving up from the Canadian Hockey League. It’s their first opportunity to play against men who are stronger and more experienced. Hague did a great job with 13 goals and 32 points in 75 games, while posting a plus-31.
He helped lead the Chicago Wolves to the Calder Cup Final, with four goals and 11 points in 22 games. Hague was instrumental in the Wolves’ dominant postseason run and showed no signs of rookie fatigue.
Given the Golden Knights’ cap troubles in the offseason, the team needed players on reasonable entry-level contracts. Hague had a great showing during the team’s summer rookie camp and impressed the coaches during training camp and made the squad at the start of the season.
Because he is still on his entry-level contract, he draws the short stick when it comes to demotions and the Golden Knights returns him to the Wolves when they have an extended break to save cap space. He has suited up for 38 games, registering 10 assists and his first NHL goal.
Under new head coach Pete DeBoer, Hague has displayed a lot more confidence. He is receiving over a minute and a half of power-play time and has recorded nine shots on goal in three games. With the extra time on the man advantage, he is getting a lot more shot attempts, which helped him light the lamp.
As displayed in the OHL and AHL, Hague has a howitzer of a shot. He led all defensemen in goals during his final junior hockey season and was tied for second in goals among rookie defensemen in the AHL last season.
With his ice time and confidence at an all-time high, Hague could have a breakout second half. As he gains experience, he should be trusted with more ice time in all situations; expect to see a lot more “Haguer-bombs” from the point.