Toronto Maple Leafs 2017 Draft Watch: Nicolas Hague

In the last Toronto Maple Leafs Draft Watch, we took a look at Juuso Valimaki. This time we take a look at a different defender.

On the Toronto Maple Leafs first round radar this year should be several defenders. Juuso Valimaki should be one, Nicolas Hague should be another.

Hague stands six feet, six inches tall and weighs in at 214 pounds, according to Elite Prospects. That’s one monster of 17 year old junior player.

Prior to this season, Hague hadn’t been known to generate much offensively. That can be chalked up to the fact that he’s a 17 year old giant who is still figuring out how to operate his less-than-common frame.

Big kids take a longer time to figure out just what to do with their size, and to work on mobility. Hague is finding out this year that he does have the talent to move the puck and be effective on the score-sheet – an absolute must in today’s game.

After recording 24 points in 66 games last year for Mississauga in the OHL, Hague has jumped out to an impressive start this season. He’s got eight goals and seven assists in 16 games for the Steelheads so far in 2016-2017.

His general point total is impressive, but what’s even more incredible is that 11 of his 15 points have come at 5v5, including five of his eight goals. That’s 73.3% of his points – 15 in 16 games – coming at 5v5 to start his draft year.

Even up to two weeks ago, scouts were having a hard time projecting Hague, citing his lack of offensive ability as an issue as well as his east-west movement.

The offense is there. He’s showing that with 73.3% of points at 5v5 and 63.6% of those 5v5 points coming as primary points.

As far as his lateral movements and edge work against smaller, shiftier, players, well that comes with time and training. He’s a 6’6″ 17 year old. Of course he’s going to have trouble right now. The hockey world wasn’t exactly taken by Zdeno Chara early in his career, either.

Hockey Prospect has him ranked 19th, ISS Hockey has him at 11 and Future Considerations has him at 7. He’s generating a lot of attention in a weak year for top rated defense out of the OHL.

As impressive of a start as he’s having, Hague will be a wildcard wherever he’s selected. But it could be a very valuable wildcard to hold.

The offense he’s showing with a few years of working on skating and coordination could mean he’ll be a dominant defender down the road. Or, alternatively, he could just be a monster kid cashing in on his size and strength over the rest of the OHL.

Nevertheless, Nicolas Hague is going to be a first round draft pick and he’s a player the Toronto Maple Leafs should be keeping an eye on, because he could end up in their wheelhouse between 10-15 in the first round.

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