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New Knight proving to be valuable addition: ‘He’s been awesome’

It hasn’t taken Noah Hanifin long to mesh with the Golden Knights.

One sequence in particular showed how comfortable he’s been in his new surroundings.

The defenseman went to work March 17 with the Knights pushing for a game-tying goal in the third period against the New Jersey Devils. Hanifin received the puck above the left circle. He drove to the net rather than settling for a long-range shot and was stopped by goaltender Jake Allen.

Hanifin cycled around the net as play continued, retrieved the puck at the opposite circle and zipped a pass to defense partner Alex Pietrangelo across the ice.

Pietrangelo fired a shot that deflected off left wing William Carrier and in to spark the Knights’ eventual 3-1 win.

It was Hanifin’s willingness to drive the play that led to that goal. His ability to activate and still play strong defense has made him a valuable add for the Knights.

“At the end of the day, you just got to go play hockey,” Hanifin said. “No matter who you’re playing with or what the situation is, you just got to go out and play the game you know how to play.”

The Knights were looking for stability when Hanifin arrived. He’s provided it.

He has four assists in eight games since the Knights acquired him in a trade with the Calgary Flames on March 6. He’s also plus-2 at five-on-five, tied for the second-best mark on the team in that span.

His impact goes beyond that. The Knights dominated play in the five games Hanifin and Pietrangelo played together, outshooting opponents 50-37.

Hanifin has played with Nic Hague the last three games with Pietrangelo out with an illness. All those two have done together is help the Knights outshoot opponents 35-10.

“You control what you can,” Hanifin said. “I think, for me, that’s been my mindset. Just trying to help the team. The best way I can do that is to play to my ability and the way I know how to play.”

Pietrangelo said March 17 it’s tough to imagine joining a new team so late in the season, but Hanifin has handled the transition well. It’s helped that the Knights and Flames play similar defensive systems.

“He’s been really good,” Pietrangelo said. “He’s a professional.”

Playing with a familiar face has also helped Hanifin adapt.

The Boston native grew up with center Jack Eichel, who’s from nearby North Chelmsford, Massachusetts.

They played against each other as kids, were teammates at USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program and played together at the 2015 World Junior Championships. They were even in the same draft class in 2015. Eichel went second to the Buffalo Sabres and Hanifin was selected fifth by the Carolina Hurricanes.

Not even the longstanding rivalry between Eichel’s Boston University and Hanifin’s Boston College can drive a wedge between them.

“He makes so many plays with the puck. He’s calm with it, moves his feet and he’s so reliable in the D zone,” Eichel said. “He’s been awesome. It’s been awesome to have him.”

Pietrangelo’s status is still up in the air as the Knights begin a four-game road trip Monday in St. Louis.

Hanifin has stepped forward to lead a blue line that appears to be rounding into form despite missing its leader in time on ice. The Knights allowed three goals their last two games — both wins — without Pietrangelo.

It’s more evidence that Hanifin is proving to be a worthwhile addition.

“I think we’re just checking pretty well,” Hanifin said. “As a unit of five on the ice, we’re all being aggressive and staying up. Because of that, we’re limiting a lot of shots against and controlling the play for most of the game. I think everything’s trending in the right direction.”

Contact Danny Webster at dwebster@reviewjournal.com. Follow @DannyWebster21 on X.

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