Mark Stone’s scouting report starts with the same four words every time: Great with his stick.
The 26-year-old winger is excellent at creating turnovers, causing deflections and winning the puck along the boards because he’s worked hard to use his blade in ways other NHL players can’t. That commitment to his craft is why the 2010 sixth-round pick is expected to sign an eight-year extension worth $9.5 million annually with the Golden Knights.
“As a young player, I had to do a lot of things to even make it here,” Stone said. “I wasn’t a very good skater. That was documented when I was 12 years old. Everyone told me I couldn’t skate.”
That Stone is able to survive in the pros despite the knocks on his skating is testament to the skills he’s developed through years of work in his native Winnipeg, spending hours at a time on outdoor rinks with his friends.
“That’s what we did in Winnipeg,” Stone said. “We were always working on little skills. That’s one of the good things about having the winters that we had in Winnipeg. We were on the ice just messing around with buddies daily.”
Those skills, along with his physical play and instincts, are why Stone has made plenty of scouts look silly in the last nine years. He was the 178th player drafted in 2010, and among the players picked in that draft ranks eighth in career points (312).
“I played with Stone for a long time, and he is a really good guy and obviously a really smart and talented hockey player,” said Florida Panthers forward Mike Hoffman, who was teammates with Stone for six seasons with the Ottawa Senators. “You know they got a good player over there, and he is going to be good for a long time, one of the best sticks in the league and very good in front of the net. He is a great addition for (the Knights).”
Knights defenseman Nick Holden coached a basketball team of local celebrities to a 136-124 win over a team coached by teammate Ryan Carpenter at Faith Lutheran High School on Tuesday night.
“I’d probably say it was like 90 percent coaching and maybe 10 percent skill by the players,” Holden joked after a team that included Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Xavier Grimble and former UNLV standout Warren Rosegreen emerged victorious at the Fellowship of Christian Athletes “Rise Up” event. “I have all the bragging rights (over Carpenter). He lost, I won and it wasn’t even close.”
Holden was happy to participate in the event, which also featured a 3-point shootout and dunk contest for local high school players.
“I think it’s awesome to be able to come out in the community,” he said. “For me, faith is a big part of my life so to be able to come out to an event like this has been pretty special.”
State of hockey
Defenseman Nate Schmidt, a St. Cloud, Minnesota native, was excited for the start of the 75th Minnesota high school hockey tournament Wednesday. Schmidt’s alma mater, St. Cloud Cathedral, is the No. 2 seed in the class 1A bracket and won its first game 7-0 over North Branch at Xcel Energy Center, the home of the Minnesota Wild.
Schmidt and the Crusaders placed fourth in the 2008 and 2009 state tournaments.
“The closest thing I can compare it to is what our games are like,” Schmidt said. “It’s that kind of atmosphere.”
Coach Gerard Gallant said injured forward Erik Haula is skating a “few times on the ice a week.” Haula injured his right knee in a 3-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Nov. 6 and had surgery. He started skating again last week.
“It’s good news when he gets on the ice,” Gallant said.
2010 NHL Draft points leaders
Tyler Seguin: 565 (2nd)
Taylor Hall: 511 (1st)
Jeff Skinner: 437 (7th)
Vladimir Tarasenko: 404 (16th)
Ryan Johansen: 396 (4th)
Evgeny Kuznetsov: 324 (26th)
Mikael Granlund: 318 (9th)
Mark Stone: 312 (178th)
— Through Tuesday