Leafs Draft Watch Profile: Nicolas Hague
|Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images|
This is the first in a series of posts where we will take a look at five players the Toronto Maple Leafs could potentially pick at the upcoming 2017 NHL draft in June.
When the Toronto Maple Leafs were knocked out of the playoffs by the Washington Capitals in six games, it was clear that the team was not nearly ready to begin competing for a Stanley Cup. An improved defensive unit seems to be what is standing between the team being a playoff hopeful to a legitimate threat to go all the way.
The Leafs are likely to pick either 17th or 18th overall in the upcoming draft and it appears they will likely pick a defenseman in hopes of upgrading their back end. Luckily for them, Nicolas Hauge of the Mississauga Steelheads is projected to be available at that spot and could be just what the Leafs need.
Height: 6 foot 6 inches
Weight: 217 Pounds
Hometown: Kitchener, ON
Provided by Elite Prospects
What the scouts say
ISS Hockey - Mar. 13th: "9 pts in last 8 games. Big, mobile dman, gearing up for OHL playoffs. Makes smart plays w/ puck."
Jeff Marek of Sportsnet - Mar. 8th: "Plays in all situations, can anchor a PP. Some scouts think skating still an issue, others not that concerned about his feet. Very poised, well controlled now."
Mike Morreale - Feb. 23rd: "He brings an offensive dimension to his game," Hockey Canada head scout Ryan Jankowski said. "He's also effective in a shutdown role with that range, reach and the size he has. He's growing into his body and growing into his ability. I feel he's more than your typical huge physical defenseman; he's a guy who moves the puck very well and brings an offensive component to his game."
ISS Hockey - Feb. 12th: "Moves the puck well & shows good offensive instincts. Uses long reach to take away time/space."
Mike Morreale NHL.com - Jan. 20th: "Hague (6-5, 206) is a fluid skater and can move the puck extremely well, enabling his team to create a lot of offense. He also has five power-play goals, second on Mississauga. The left-shot defenseman also is tough in the defensive end."
Future Considerations: "Hague has a great mix of size, skating and skill…shuts down the oppositions’ top lines and is a driver of the play…is physical and will give that extra shot to his opponent to leave a mark and an impression for the next time…doesn’t give his man room to breathe in front of the net…not shy with stepping in to lay the body, standing up his man with a solid check…controls the gap very well with strong position and good stick work…very balanced and surprisingly mobile for a big kid, he possesses a powerful lateral step"
List of quotes provided by My NHL Draft.
Nicolas Hague is a huge defender who is reliable in his own end and has an offensive touch to boot. There are some areas of his game he needs to work on, no doubt, but Hague has the potential to become a great defenseman in the NHL for years to come.
To begin with, his draft year has been nothing but a success, especially when you consider his offensive production. As noted above, he finished this season 18 goals, 28 assists, and 46 points in 65 games played. These kinds of numbers are great for a defender and what's best he has yet to hit his peak. His shot is powerful, his passing is smooth, and he seems to jump in on the rush fairly often.
While he has great offensive abilities, what makes a good defenseman is his play in his own end of the ice, and Hague definitely excels in that category. Blessed with a large frame, Hague uses it to his advantage to box out opponents and battle for the puck in the corner. He also uses his body to position himself in an attempt to prevent pucks from reaching the net or the intended recipient of a pass.
An underrated aspect of his game is that Hague can skate pretty well for someone of his height. He can smoothly skate from one end of the rink to the other for joining offensive chances and getting back into defensive positioning. This will come in handy in the NHL, which is currently seeing a larger emphasis on fast skating.
Based on what I mentioned above, it seems I am describing a potential top five pick in the draft. Unfortunately for Hague, there are a few aspects of his game that are preventing him from being ranked higher.
For one, he isn't a really physical player despite his intimidating size. While he does use it more to box out opponents and prevent shots on net, Hague doesn't play a physical game all the time. Doing so could help him not only win more puck battles in the corner, but also knock players off the ice.
While his skating is impressive for someone his height, Hague does have more room for improvement. He can skate from end to end but can get in trouble trying to keep up with smaller and shiftier players that can breeze by him. Further improving his foot speed can not only get him into position much quicker but may also make it nearly impossible to get him off the puck.
Most importantly, Hauge needs to work on being a more disciplined player. Despite his great offensive season, Hauge ended up with 107 penalty minutes as well. This penchant for penalty trouble was especially evident early in the 2017 OHL playoffs where he was suspended indefinitely for a cheap shot during a game against the Ottawa 67s. Reducing his time in the penalty box by improving his discipline will help make Hague become a better player.
Is he worth it?
Nicolas Hague has a lot of attractive aspects to his game that would make him become a valuable asset to whichever team decides to draft him. He is a solid two-way defender with great offensive abilities, a great shot, a strong defensive presence, and can skate well for a man who stands at 6'6".
There are certainly areas of his game that he needs to work on, including his physical play, further improving his skating, and being more disciplined. At the end of the day, these are things Hague will improve both with increased muscle mass and maturity, which should make his flaws of little concern.
The sky is the limit for how far he can progress if he makes it to the NHL. Sharing similar traits to current NHLers, such as Tyler Myers, Cody Franson, and Aaron Ekblad, he has the potential to become an impact two-way defenseman for years to come. If he is available when it is the Leafs turn to pick, they should not hesitate to draft the Kitchener native.
You can follow Michael Mazzei on Twitter @MichaelMazzei3.