In his first NHL exhibition game of 2018-19, defenseman Nic Hague got a neat little footnote when his pass to Max Pacioretty turned into the former Montreal captain’s first goal in a Vegas jersey. Given how Hague has developed since the Golden Knights drafted him 34th overall in 2017, expect more of that – in real games – sooner rather than later.
Hague’s progression in junior has been stunning. Even in minor midget, he was more of a defensive specialist thanks to his lanky frame. Now 6-foot-6 and 215 pounds, Hague still has the reach and physicality to keep the enemy honest, but he’s coming off a 78-point campaign in the OHL, which helped him earn defenseman-of-the-year honors. That was a vast improvement on his 46-point output from the year prior, which nearly doubled his 24-point offering in his OHL rookie season. Hague said his NHL pre-season experience last year was a big help. “When I was up with Vegas for camp, I learned a lot,” he said, “picking my spots, knowing when to get involved and when to hang back.”
Skating is an aspect of the game Hague has been working on for years. He has trained hard to become quicker, more explosive and more efficient. Now the kid looks like he’s on the cusp.
Hague got into five games with the AHL’s Chicago Wolves at the end of last year, then three more in the playoffs. That glimpse of the pro game will help him when he takes on a full-time role with the Wolves this season. “It was huge for me,” he said. “Going up there, I really benefited from a guy like Jason Garrison, who has so much NHL experience. He was great with me on the bench and on the ice.”
The dream, of course, is to play with Vegas, and that pre-season game was memorable for more than just the Pacioretty assist. “It was my first game ever at T-Mobile Arena,” Hague said. “I’ve watched games there before, but nothing compares to actually skating out in front of those fans.”
This story appears in the Prospects Unlimited 2018 issue of The Hockey News magazine.