After the first few picks in the NHL Entry Draft, selections are largely seen as lottery tickets — no guarantee to pan out, but if they do, it is a nice little bonus.
Nic Hague, however, is a big bonus no matter how you slice him, primarily because he stands 6-foot-6 and has plenty of room to fill out.
ISS Hockey had him ranked 18th among skaters entering the draft, so it appears that the Golden Knights made the most of their selection. For what it is worth, ISS had Cody Glass sixth, Nick Suzuki 11th, and Erik Brännström not among the top 31.
Historically, or at least from 1990-2013, players drafted in the 31st-35th overall range have a 29.2 percent chance to play in 100 NHL games and a 10.8 percent chance to be a top-four defenseman (or top-six forward or starting goalie), according to a TSN study. While those numbers are indeed low, they do not require overcoming insurmountable odds. Plus, there is always value in having a large offensively-minded defenseman as a trading chip. But we are getting ahead of ourselves.
Hague has a massive wingspan and an active stick, which is likely to help his play in the defensive zone, which is currently considered a work in progress. Occasional lapses in judgment — as well as sporadic puck-handling woes in his end — were likely what kept the Kitchener, Ontario native out of the first round. His speed was a question mark as well, but it should do Vegas fans some good knowing that Hague is well aware of this and is striving for improvement, as per an article from the Las Vegas Review-Journal:
On the power play, he often linked up with Owen Tippett, Knights On Ice’s pick in the SB Nation mock draft and real-life 10th overall selection by the Florida Panthers. The pair occupied the top-two in points with the man advantage for the Steelheads last year.
Also, it looks like Vegas has a little bit of a bad boy on their hands, a guy who could theoretically fit well in Sin (Bin) City. Hague’s 107 penalty minutes led Mississauga last year, with a few fighting majors as well as a handful of roughing calls. While it would behoove the lanky youngster to stay out of the box, there is certainly something to be said for providing a little snarl.
Kyle over at Winging it in Motown wrote up Hague in a pre-draft piece in which he compared the 18-year-old to the Winnipeg Jets’ Tyler Myers. Beyond the obvious height similarities lie their offensive-minded natures, as well as a heavy shot from the point. Plus, how great would it be if Hague can nab the Calder in his first NHL season?
From the video above, you can see Hague’s fearlessness upon entering the rush, as well as his booming slap shot on the power-play. What you do not see, however, are any defensive efforts. Hague is very much an offensive defenseman, which should serve him well in a league that is moving away from stay-at-home types, so long as his skating continues to develop. Still though, like many young blue liners, Hague’s play in his own end is still a work-in-progress.
According to our very own Danny Webster, Hague looked stellar in prospect camp and imposed his physical presence throughout the contests.
As for his NHL prognosis, it is a near sure-fire bet that Hague will not see regular season time until at least the 2018-19 campaign, given a need to improve his skating, as well as the fact that the Knights already boast more than a half-dozen NHL-tested defensemen. Having said that, with the possible exceptions of Brännström and Shea Theodore, Hague’s ceiling is the highest the Knights possess. With respect to the former (and his Knights On Ice prospect preview), Hague may be the better of the two when all is said and done.
Also, he could probably eat the 5-foot-9 Brännström, and you can’t teach that.