Nate Schmidt returns to his happy place as Knights roll Oilers

Updated November 19, 2018 - 2:34 am

EDMONTON, Alberta — In those first few days, when he felt the walls of skepticism closing in, he turned off his cellphone and went to that dark place of personal doubt.

He wasn’t sure how those closest to him would react.

He wasn’t sure, really, how he should act.

If happiness is found at home, Nate Schmidt can finally celebrate his return to the place he feels most a sense of normalcy and joy, gliding across a sheet of ice as a member of the Golden Knights, their best defenseman with both a game and personality Vegas has sorely missed to begin the season.

He’s back, smiling as wide and as often as ever, and for at least a night things seemed somewhat familiar, the Knights opening a three-game road trip with a 6-3 win against Edmonton on Sunday before an announced gathering of 18,347 at Rogers Place.

Schmidt served a 20-game suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy, spending part of that time working out in Vienna before returning to the Knights in preparation of making his season debut here against the Oilers and their lightning fast star Connor McDavid.

“For a while there, it was really hard, and I struggled with it,” Schmidt said of his time away. “I didn’t allow myself to (be happy). Sometimes, I’d just go for walks and a buddy would pick me up on the side of the road. I just needed to walk to blow off steam.

“My brother and friends reached out those first few days and said, ‘You don’t have to turn the phone back on, but there are a lot of people (supporting) you.’ That made me feel a lot better. It lifted my spirits. I’m just going to do my best to bring all the positive feelings back.”

When we last saw him in the Stanley Cup Final, Schmidt was paired with Shea Theodore, so it made sense that the duo skated together Sunday.

It couldn’t have gone better.

What an ideal opponent for Schmidt to return against. When speed is an issue on the other side, having him as another swift skater and stabilizing the blue line and creating odd-man rushes makes Vegas a far more dangerous team than without him.

He played to a plus-1 over 19:38 and 24 shifts Sunday and the Corsi percentages for Schmidt (78.13) and Theodore (77.42) in 5-on-5 were, well, beyond terrific.

There were some plays Schmidt could have made and didn’t. The third period arrived and he had to check his legs to determine how much he had left. But this is his type of game. Up and down the ice. Feet constantly moving.

It was important for him to get past a few shifts and see where his conditioning took him, important for him just to feel alive and happy again.

It was also a key win for Vegas, specifically how it reversed a bad trend of second-period meltdowns. Instead, the Knights took control in the middle stanza. They scored three times — one short-handed, one at even strength and one via the power play — over just 2:12.

It was, in that small window of dominance, more like last season’s team than at any time during this up-and-down start over the last six weeks.

Crash course

It also means another victory against a Pacific Division foe and a strong start to the trip for a team that before Sunday was 3-8-0 away from T-Mobile Arena.

Mostly, it means their best defenseman is back, who earlier in the day compared trying to defend and stay with McDavid — who had his 12th goal of the season to open the game’s scoring — to a college-level Econ 5000 final exam.

“Good luck with that,” said Schmidt. “It’s no midterm. It was definitely a lot of adrenaline to start. My heart was pumping pretty hard. I was excited, nervous, anxious, whatever buzzword you want to use. But it all felt good. Overall, I think Shea and I did a great job. I hold myself to a high standard. I want to make sure I’m ready to play and I can execute at a high level.

“(The suspension) sucked. It was a tough time, even for me, because I’m a pretty positive guy. I tried to make the best out of a crappy situation. But now I’m excited to be back with the guys. I’m just excited to play hockey, stepping onto the ice and doing what you love.”

He’s home, that dark place of doubt replaced with a smile from here to, say, Vienna.

More Golden Knights: Follow all of our Golden Knights coverage online at and @HockeyinVegas on Twitter.

Contact columnist Ed Graney at or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

Golden Knights Videos
Golden Knights center Paul Stastny on rejoining the lineup
Golden Knights center Paul Stastny on rejoining the lineup. David Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Golden Knights center Paul Stastny discusses his injury
Golden Knights center Paul Stastny discusses his injury. David Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Knights center Paul Stastny discusses his return to the ice
Knights center Paul Stastny discusses his return to the ice. David Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Golden Knights Outshine Stars 4-2
The Golden Knights take down the Dallas Stars for their 8th win in their last 10 games. David Schoen discusses the victory.
Golden Knights prepare for road trip after 4-2 win over Stars
Vegas Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant and team players talk about carrying the momentum off their 4-2 win over the Dallas Stars into their 4-game road trip.
Golden Knights Suffer Heavy Loss To Kings - Golden Edge
Vegas Golden Knights lose to the Los Angeles Kings 5-1. Review-Journal sports writer Adam Hill goes over the Knights loss.
Golden Knights Head Coach Gerard Gallant On Loss To Kings
Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant talks to media about the Knights 5-1 loss to the Kings.
Golden Knights on their 4-3 victory over the Blackhawks
Players from the Vegas Golden Knights reflect on their third period surge and what else led them to a 4-3 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks.
Deryk Engelland at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas was a new experience for Golden Knights defenseman Deryk Engelland on Wednesday night. He said he was looking forward to spending time with family and going for a skate, as well as lighting the Christmas tree for fans.
Golden Edge: Ryan Reaves will face no further penalty for hit
The Golden Knights' Ryan Reaves will not be suspended following a hit on the Washington Capitals' Tom Wilson on Tuesday night. David Schoen and Adam Hill report from team practice at City National Arena.
Vegas Golden Knights Christmas Display
In the Las Vegas Valley, the chances of getting a white Christmas are slim. But this year, you can have a “Knight” Christmas. A Henderson resident has a Christmas lights display that is synchronized to the entrance music for the Golden Knights. GG Misa’s Knights light show is played every 30 minutes from 5 to 10 nightly. His light show consists of two songs: Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” and the entrance music, “Le Castle Vania,” from the movie “John Wick.” The display is located at 730 Bollons Island St. (Richard Brian/Las Vegas Reivew-Journal)
Golden Knights Avenge Final Loss, Top Caps 5-3 - Golden Edge
The Golden Knights rally to defeat the Washington Capitals in a rematch of last year's Stanley Cup Final. David Schoen and Adam Hill discuss the win and Ryan Reaves big hit on Tom Wilson.
Golden Knights, Schmidt on their emotional win over the Capitals
The Vegas Golden Knights talk about their emotional victory and playing physical against their 2018 Stanley Cup opponent, the Washington Capitals.
Golden Knights head coach happy with team's effort in win over Capitals
Vegas Golden Knights' head coach Gerard Gallant says he was happy with the team's effort in their 5-3 win against the Washington Capitals, the 2018 Stanley Cup winners.
Golden Knights License Plate Sales
Twenty-Five year Las Vegas resident, Bernard Turner, loves the Golden Knights and couldn’t wait to get the team-inspired specialty license plate on his new vehicle. Over 11,000 of the plates have been ordered since becoming available in October, according to the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles.
Golden Edge: Golden Knights Fall to Oilers 2-1
The Golden Knights come up short in Edmonton against the Oilers. David Schoen discusses the game.
Alex Tuch on Golden Knights' 2nd line
Alex Tuch talks about the chemistry between players on the Golden Knights' second line. (David Schone/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Golden Knights Win Five Games Straight, Beat Canucks 4-3
Golden Knights win five games straight after beating the Vancouver Canucks 4-3. Golden Knights beat reporter David Schoen goes over the Knights win.
Gerard Gallant on Marc-Andre Fleury
Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant talks about Marc-Andre Fleury af the Knights win in Vancouver. (David Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Reaves faceoffs 3
Reaves faceoffs 2
Reaves faceoffs 1
Gallant pre Vancouver
Golden Edge: Knights Have Strong Game Against Chicago
Golden Knights get strong win over the Chicago Blackhawks with an 8-3 victory. Golden Knights beat reporter David Schoen breaks down the knights fourth straight victory in a row.
Golden Edge Mailbag
Ben Gotz and Adam Hill answer all your burning Vegas Golden Knights questions and comments
Golden Edge: Golden Knights defeat Sharks 6-0 for 2nd straight shutout
William Karlsson scored the fastest goal in franchise history, and the Knights finally looked like the team that advanced to last year’s Stanley Cup Final with a 6-0 shellacking of first-place San Jose. Adam Hill and Dave Schoen report from T-Mobile Arena.
William Carrier Talks About the Knight's Win
Golden Knight's forward William Carrier scored his fourth goal of the season to help the team beat San Jose 6-0.
Marc-Andre Fleury Speaks After Shutout
Golden Knight's goalie Marc-Andre Fleury puts up his second shutout in back to back games. The Knights defeated the Sharks 6-0.
Golden Edge: Golden Knights Shut out Calgary
Golden Knights shutout the Calgary Flames 2-0 after coming home from their three game road trip. Adam Hill and David Schoen recap the Knights victory over the Flames at T-Mobile Arena.
Gerard Gallant says team's play is improving after win over Flames
Vegas Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant discusses the team's play and credits Marc-Andre Fleury's performance in their 2-0 shutout win against the Calgary Flames.
Golden Knights talk about their 2-0 win over the Flames
Vegas Golden Knights Nate Schmidt, Colin Miller, Marc-Andre Fleury and Alex Tuch discuss the team's 2-0 win over the Calgary Flames.
James Neal Talks About Being Back In Vegas
Former Golden Knights forward James Neal talks to media about playing his former team in Las Vegas.
Golden Edge: Pacioretty and Knights Come Away with Two
Max Pacioretty scored his second goal of the night in overtime to defeat the Arizona Coyotes as the team takes two points. They got 3 of 4 points overall on this road trip putting them at 21 for the season. Adam Hill reports from Arizona.
Coach Gallant Talks with Media After Win
The Golden Knights defeated the Arizona Coyotes in overtime with a Max Pacioretty game-winner. Coach Gerard Gallant speaks on the teams performance.
Max Pacioretty Talks After Scoring Game Winner
Golden Knights left wing Max Pacioretty scores in overtime to defeat the Coyotes.
Golden Edge: Knights In Flames After Loss To Calgary
Golden Knights fall to 7-2 to the Calgary Flames. Review-Journal sports writer Adam Hill and columnist Ed Graney go over the Knights loss before heading to Arizona to play against the Coyotes.
Golden Knights Forward Reilly Smith On 7-2 Loss
Golden Knights forward Reilly Smith talks to media about loss to the Calgary Flames.
Golden Knights Head Coach Gerard Gallant On Loss To Calgary
Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant talks to the media after their 7-2 loss against Calgary.
Golden Edge: Golden Knights Have Stellar Second Period Against Oilers
Golden Knights have stellar second period against the Edmonton Oilers on the road. Review-Journal sports writers Adam Hill and columnist Ed Graney break down the Knights 6-3 win over the Oilers.
Golden Knights Assistant Coach On Win In Edmonton
Golden Knights Defenseman Nate Schmidt On Win Against Oilers
Gallant on Toronto loss
Gallant on Pacioretty
Gallant on how season has gone
Pacioretty on possible return
Gallant and Marchessault on Perron
Coach Gerard Gallant and Golden Knights Jonathan Marchessault comment on former Knights player David Perron (Dave Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Coach Gerard Gallant on former Knights player David Perron
Coach Gerard Gallant on former Knights player David Perron (Dave Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Marchessault on Perron
VGS themed games from AGS at G2E Global Gaming Expo
A Golden Knights-themed slot machine was on display Tuesday at the G2E Global Gaming Expo as AGS showed two products that came out of a 3-year contract with the Knights. A video roulette game featuring a Knights helmet and an enormous slot machine were on the floor along with Knights cheerleaders, the Drumbots and Chance, the Knights' mascot. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Golden Knights talk after practice
Marc-Andre Fleury, Max Pacioretty and Cody Eakin in the locker room on Wed. October 3, 2018.
Vegas Golden Knights show support at blood drive
Members of the Vegas Golden Knights NHL team showed up for a community blood drive on the first anniversary of the Las Vegas shooting, Oct. 1, 2018. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada Task Force One Cheers Golden Knights
Nevada Task Force One Cheers Golden Knights
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like