The Golden Knights’ big defender made some noticeable strides in his third NHL campaign.
In the 2021-22 Player Review series, we will evaluate the 2021-22 performances of each key member of the Golden Knights. Players were evaluated based on overall performance in the regular season with regard to pre-season expectations and how that player performed in his particular role.
Nicolas Hague has turned out to be one of the most successful prospects in the long, storied history of the Vegas Golden Knights. Selected in the second round (No. 34 overall) of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, the 6-foot-6, 230-pound mountain of a defenseman has appeared in 142 NHL games at just 23 years old. And while he still has plenty of room to improve, it’s hard not to be excited about what Hague could possibly bring to the table with a little extra seasoning.
Season in review
On paper, Hague’s 2021-22 season wasn’t all that extraordinary. Appearing in 52 games, he managed only 14 points on the season (four goals, 10 assists). But with Alec Martinez out of the Golden Knights’ lineup for several months, Hague earned the opportunity to play alongside Alex Pietrangelo on the top pairing for much of the season, and his minutes reflected that. He averaged 18:39 of ice time per night and once again took on some key minutes on the penalty kill.
From a play-driving perspective, Hague did a solid job of generating offense and firing pucks on net. He registered a career-high 116 shots this season and performed well in key advanced stat categories (51.81 Corsi For percentage, 52.13 Goals For percentage at even strength). Hague has lots of offensive potential, but it’s in the defensive zone where some of his notable weaknesses lie — particularly in the area of defensive zone entries and exits.
Like a large portion of the Golden Knights’ roster, Hague was not immune to the injury bug. After missing a decent chunk of games in the middle of the regular season, Hague ended up missing basically the entire final quarter of the campaign with a lower-body injury. Had he not been knocked out of the lineup with ailments, one can imagine Hague would’ve taken an even larger step forward in Year 3.
This is going to be an interesting offseason for Hague. He will become a restricted free agent this summer, and with the Golden Knights in a cap crunch, it’s possible he could be one of the casualties. That doesn’t appear likely, though. Hague isn’t expected to break the bank by any means, and with such a high ceiling, it’s hard to imagine the Knights letting him go so easily. There’s always the danger of RFAs being scooped up via offer sheets, but offer sheets are so rare in the NHL that they’re almost (!) a non-factor. Barring anything unforeseen, Hague should be back with the Golden Knights next season with a new contract in hand.
Knights On Ice grade: B-