NHL teams tend to covet mobile, skilled defencemen more so than big bruisers these days but that hasn’t stopped Nicolas Hague from becoming a coveted target. His stock fell nine spots from midterm to final rankings on NHL Central Scouting’s list of North American skaters, yet the Mississauga Steelheads blueliner possesses many desirable qualities.
He isn’t fleet of foot and knows that’s the one area of his game he needs to work on the most.
“That’s been the main focus of my training for the last two years, something that I focus on day in, day out…My agility, my shiftiness, keeping up with little guys in the corners,” Hague told Sportsnet’s Kristina Rutherford in March.
It’s something some scouts are concerned with as well.
“He’s over 6-foot-6 and may still be growing. He’s one of those big kids whose strength and coordination are playing catchup,” an NHL scout told Sportsnet’s Gare Joyce near the beginning of the 2016-17 campaign. “He’s diligent, a high-end competitor, but it’s hard to project him as an offensive guy.
“My concern is his feet. He’s fine in the open ice, going north-south. My concern is what he does in tight spaces with little shifty guys giving him trouble. Anyone he lays the body on is shut down, but it’s the chase that gives him problems.”
Here’s some more on Hague.
Age on June 24: 18
Current Team: Mississauga Steelheads, OHL
Weight: 215 pounds
From: Kitchener, Ontario
NHL Central Scouting Rank (N.A.): 20
Jeff Marek’s Take: “Huge defenceman with offensive instincts and while the skating may cause concerns for some, scouts still check a lot of boxes with Hague. Has a bomb from the point and plays with an edge.”
He has book smarts to go along with on-ice smarts
Hague won the Bobby Smith Trophy in 2016 as the player who best combines high standards of play and academic excellence in the Ontario Hockey League. This is certainly a positive sign considering some of the players to win the award in the past decade: Connor McDavid (twice), Darnell Nurse, Dougie Hamilton, Erik Gudbranson, Matt Duchene, Ryan Ellis, Steven Stamkos.
He can come through in the clutch
Check out the big man hustle and bury an OT winner against the Sarnia Sting with 0.7 seconds remaining on the clock.
He can cross the line
Hague is no stranger to spending time in the penalty box. He has racked up 191 penalty minutes in his two seasons in Mississauga. They’re not all hooking and tripping calls either. He was suspended indefinitely by the OHL in March for an incident that occurred in a game against the Ottawa 67’s. Hague got into a fight with 67’s forward Travis Barron, a seventh-round pick of the Colorado Avalanche, and threw an extra punch after the two had fallen to the ice.
He’s a Leafs fan
Being from Ontario, Hague makes no secret about growing up a Maple Leafs fan. Toronto was one of the teams Hague met with during the Scouting Combine and he thought it went really well.