The AHL isn’t where many expected Wolves defenseman Nic Hague to be at this point of the season. But instead of wasting his time and pouting, he knows he has to make the best of his situation.
“I’m a young player,” Hague said. “Every day when I come to the rink, whether it’s here or whether it’s up there, I want to try to improve and get better. That’s been my mindset. I know I’m still young. Obviously, (the NHL) is where I want to be, but I know there’s still stuff to improve on and areas of my game that I can work on.
“That’s kind of been my mindset. Just trying to stay focused on those things and try to keep improving every day.”
Hague, 21, appeared in 75 regular-season and 22 playoff games for the Wolves last season. He then appeared five times for the Wolves early this season but subsequently seemed to have graduated to the NHL. In 38 games this campaign for Vegas, Hague contributed one goal and 10 assists with strong possession numbers like a 56.2 percent even-strength Corsi rating.
But Hague was sent to the AHL on Jan. 21 for what looked like a brief detour right before the NHL all-star game. He hasn’t been back to the Golden Knights since.
“I think he got humbled a little bit when he got down here, to tell you the truth. Which is good for you,” Wolves coach Rocky Thompson said. “It’s good and it makes you work harder and it makes you tighten your game up. I felt there were areas of his game – particularly without the puck – that he could improve on.”
Hague could only improve if he got over the mental hurdle of coming back to the AHL after seemingly playing well enough to stick in the NHL. It sounds like that’s happening, though that process isn’t always easy.
“It’s always tough emotionally and mentally when you get sent down,” Thompson said. “He was playing well, too. Those are things that are always hard to deal with, but I believe when these obstacles come up they happen for a reason and they make you better. This will improve Nic Hague in the long run as a player. He’s had to fight some adversity this year, and even down here with us, and I know he’s such a great kid and he’s got a ton of character, that this is going to make him better.”
Hague indicated he had to re-adjust his game to the AHL level after spending time in the NHL. He said veterans who had long NHL careers were able to help him in Vegas, and of course the speed is of the AHL game isn’t the same.
All of that is part of the adjustment to his current surroundings.
“For me, I think I just had to try to regroup mentally and just try to focus on my game and try not to go down-hill, but just try to keep doing my thing and try to do everything I can to get back up there,” Hague said. “Just try to control what I can control.
NOTE: As expected, the AHL Board of Governors on Friday approved the Golden Knights’ purchase of the San Antonio Rampage. Vegas will relocate the Rampage to Nevada and make the franchise their affiliate next season, leaving the Wolves to find a new parent club for 2020-21.