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The Knights Watch: Nic Hague proving to be a physical specimen in OHL

A look at the CHL prospects in the Golden Knights organization is the focus of this week’s Knights Watch.

Erie Otters v Mississauga Steelheads

Welcome back to another installment of The Knights Watch, our ongoing series where we bring you updates on all of the non-NHL or AHL prospects in the Vegas Golden Knights system.

Before we get started, I would like to apologize for the hiatus this series has taken in recent weeks. Without going too 'Inside Baseball' I will say that the format the series began with had become problematic and was not one that could be continued long-term.

We will soon be getting back to weekly updates, but under a different format than was used before. We will be splitting it up weekly between the CHL prospects and the U.S and International league prospects.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled Knights Watch for the period of Oct. 10 through Dec. 11.

THE CHL PROSPECTS

C - Cody Glass (WHL, Portland Winterhawks)
Last Update: (9 Games Played) 4G-13A-17P
Current Update: (30 GP) 20G-28A-48P

We learned last week that Glass was one of two Golden Knight prospects to be invited to Team Canada’s World Junior selection camp, and who could blame them? The Winnipeg, Manitoba native has been tearing up the WHL this season and currently sits ninth in league scoring, but has fallen into a bit of a funk managing just a single goal, his lone point, in his last five games.

Here’s a more visual account of the dominance that has been Glass’ 2017-18 campaign. Thanks, Evan.

C - Nick Suzuki (OHL, Owen Sound Attack)
Last Update: (9 GP) 7G-11A-18P
Current Update: (26 GP) 17G-27A-44P

Suzuki is the second Golden Knights prospect to get the call from Hockey Canada for their World Juniors selection camp. The 18-year-old 13th overall selection from this past June’s Entry Draft has continued where he left off last season. His 44 points is good for sixth in the OHL. Suffice to say, Suzuki is good at hockey.

D - Nic Hague (OHL, Mississauga Steelheads)
Last Update: (8 GP) 2G-3A--5P
Current Update: (31 GP) 17G-15A--30P

I had a chance to watch Hague live as his Steelheads were in Hamilton, Ontario to play the Bulldogs last week. Now, I am not a professional scout. This is not news. What I am is a long-time hockey fan with eyes and opinions and I'm going to discuss some of the things I saw from Hague.

When watching Hague I was struck but two parts of his game. His skating speed and his physicality. Both of which come as a byproduct of his most visually impressive and obvious attribute — his size.

First, he continues to be a particularly slow skater. I am not a skating coach. I can't discuss technique. But, I know slow when I see it. And while it is true that this should be expected — he has never and will never be fast — it was noticeable while watching him just how slow he can be compared to skilled skaters.

Some players glide on the ice, they move effortlessly. This is not the case for Hague. But for all the effort he put in it never looked as though he had any acceleration or gained much speed while skating. There was no burst. This was evident when, at one point in the third period, Hague was pressured at the blueline and was unable to back out of the zone quickly enough. Once the attacking forward had caught up with Hague it was only a few strides later that he was passed him and driving to the goal.

He does appear to be learning to use his long reach and big stick to keep attacking rushers at bay, but he still has a way to come in that regard. I once tweeted that if I were the Golden Knights I would sit Hague down in front of video of Martin Marincin denying zone entries and have him watch them on repeat. I still believe that. Learning this skill, to maintain proper gap control and use his massive wingspan to his advantage, could be the weapon he will need to be effective at the NHL level someday. Especially as the league trends towards smaller, skilled guys.

As for physicality, I was surprised with how well and how often Hague used his size to physically dominate opponents. He was throwing checks all game, none that were highlight reel material, but rubs and bumps in both ends of the ice. But what really impressed me about Hague's physicality came as the Steelheads fell behind on the scoreboard. Hague showed an ability to drive to the net and use his size to get to the front of the goal and cause havoc for opponents in the offensive end.

In the Knights On Ice Slack chat I mentioned to my fellow writers that he had a bit of Alex Tuch in him in that when driven he can physically dominate his opponents in a way not many players are capable of.

At one point during a powerplay I watched as he came down from the point and planted himself in front of the goal in much the same way Zdeno Chara has sometimes been used by the Boston Bruins.

That said, his physicality does have its own drawbacks. He took six minutes of penalties in the game including a double-minor when he missed a stick lift and inadvertently speared his opponent in a very unkind place. He has just one game in his last nine contests where he hasn't recorded a penalty of some kind. His discipline will need to continue to develop as time goes on.

At the end of the game many of my concerns with Hague as an NHL prospect were confirmed, but I also learned a whole new side to his game that is intriguing to me going forward.

D - Dylan Coghlan (WHL, Tri-City Americans)
Last Update: (9 GP) 4G-3A-7P
Current Update: (26 GP) 8G-15A-23P

This is where writing this series becomes difficult. Coghlan was suspended for two games for a cross-checking major and game misconduct he took during our time away. The problem is that I could not find video on the incident so I can’t tell you any more than that. Statistically he has had a very strong season averaging nearly a point-per-game, which puts him in the top 20 for scoring among defensemen in the WHL.

G - Dylan Ferguson (WHL, Kamploops Blazers)
Last Update: 2-7-0, 4.55 Goals Against Average, .867 Save Percentage
Current Update: 10-11-1, 3.51 GAA, .890 SV%

His season continues to trend upward, albeit slowly, and he is nearly back at a .900 SV%. Still well below a respectable number but based on where he started the season it's a welcomed sight. Should also be mentioned he missed some action as he acted as the Golden Knights’ fifth goalie of the season, so that slowed down his resurgence to respectability somewhat.

NON-CONTRACT CHL PROSPECTS

C - Jake Leschyshyn (WHL, Regina Pats)
Last Update: (5 GP) 1G-2A-3P
Current Update: (27 GP) 8G-9A-17P

Leschyshyn has really come back into form over his last five contests with three goals and six points over that span. Looks as though any lingering issues with the knee injury he suffered last season are a thing of the past for the Raleigh, North Carolina native.

C - Ben Jones (OHL, Niagara IceDogs)
Last Update: (9 GP) 6G-6A--12P
Current Update: (30 GP) 11G-20A--31P

Nine points, all assists, in his last seven games has Jones tied for 30th in league scoring as he is on pace to shatter his previous career high in points and goals for his OHL team.

KNIGHTS ON ICE TOP PROSPECT

Nic Hague takes this week's KOI Top Prospect spot thanks in large part to his recent offensive surge. Not what you might expect from a notoriously defensive defenseman. Over the last two weeks he has six goals and eight points in six games.

Yes, his game is still highly flawed, but his recent run cannot be ignored as he looks likely to set new career highs in goals and points at the CHL level.

Next week we will cover the International and U.S. league prospects.