Golden Knights prospect Nicolas Hague was once cut trying to play up an age group with a minor midget team (15 years old and younger) in Ontario.
So yes, the 20-year-old has some experience with the uncertainty that comes with trying to advance a level in hockey. And he’s not the only young defensemen waiting to see what the future holds with the preseason over.
The Knights have nine defensemen and have to decide how many they want to keep. NHL teams typically begin the season with seven or eight.
Hague is one of three young players — along with 25-year-old Jake Bischoff and 24-year-old Jimmy Schuldt — trying to grab one of those spots.
“Our minds are pretty well made up,” coach Gerard Gallant said before Sunday’s preseason finale. “We’ve had three weeks and we’ve had all last year to know our players pretty well. We have a pretty good idea of what we’re going to do.”
Hague and Schuldt were given one last chance to make an impression Sunday against the San Jose Sharks, while Bischoff didn’t play.
Gallant said Bischoff sitting meant “nothing” for his chances to still be with the Knights for Wednesday’s season opener against the Sharks. Schuldt (who scored a power-play goal and had an assist Sunday) and Hague’s efforts might have meant little as well.
Gallant indicated veterans Nate Schmidt and Nick Holden, who did not play Sunday, would be in the lineup Wednesday. That means the Knights could play six vets in their opener, just as they did in Friday’s preseason “dress rehearsal” against the Los Angeles Kings.
That would leave the Knights to decide whether Hague, Schuldt and Bischoff are better served developing in the press box or with the American Hockey League’s Chicago Wolves.
“There is uncertainty and the way I’ve tried to approach it throughout training camp here is just to take it one day at a time and make sure every time I step out on the ice I’m working hard and trying to get better,” Hague said before the game. “Just go out there and have fun. I think I play my best when I’m having fun with it. I can’t really worry about the outcome too much.”
Preseason star Pacioretty
Knights left wing Max Pacioretty finished as the NHL’s leading preseason scorer with 10 points (four goals, six assists) in four games.
He joins a club that’s had some interesting members the last two seasons. Last year’s preseason scoring leaders were Edmonton Oilers star Connor McDavid (who had 116 points in 2018-19) and Oilers right wing Ty Rattie (who had 11 and is now playing in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League).
McDavid was also the 2017 preseason scoring champion.
Crowds keep coming
The Knights had a home preseason-record 18,131 fans show up Sunday, bringing their average over four home games to 17,989. That ranks fifth in the NHL, behind the Chicago Blackhawks (20,458), Montreal Canadiens (19,642), Vancouver Canucks (18,349) and Toronto Maple Leafs (17,996).
The Knights averaged 17,833 fans in the 2018 preseason and 16,306 in 2017.