Everyone loves a heart-warming story. Stories of people defying all odds, proving the value of hard work or, in today’s case, a hometown player signing with the hometown team. Such is the curious case of Gage Quinney, a player I’d forgive you for not knowing prior to his signing with the Vegas Golden Knights.
Like Father, Like Son
People who grew up and lived in Las Vegas during the ’90s may be familiar with Ken Quinney, Gage’s father. Ken was a former NHL skater with the Quebec Nordiques before joining the Las Vegas Thunder of the IHL (International Hockey League). He was a phenomenal player for the Thunder, racking up a career total of 602 points in 379 games and leading the team to the Pacific Division title in the 1992-93 season.
Gage played major junior hockey in the WHL, first for the Prince Albert Raiders and then with the Kelowna Rockets, where he played a key role in helping the Rockets win the WHL championship in the 2014-15 season. After a stint with both the Wheeler Nailers in the ECHL and then the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the AHL, he finally returned home to sign with the Golden Knights on a two-year, entry-level contract.
This is a lovely story and all very heart warming, but the moment I read about this signing, something didn’t seem right. Sure, the signing warms the hearts of locals and further embeds the Golden Knights into Las Vegas, but they wouldn’t sign a player, even on an ELC, just for that story, right? There had to be more to it than this. After doing some digging, I found that there is more, a lot more.
The Numbers Don’t Lie
I’m fairly certain that recently promoted Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon already knew Gage rather well given his extensive WHL background. Even if McCrimmon leaned on President of Hockey Operations George McPhee to sign Gage,. His point total over the last three seasons, at all levels of play, proves that he is consistent:
2015-16: Kamloops Blazers (WHL) – 48 Games, 27 Goals, 23 Assists, 50 Points
2016-17: Wheeling Nailers (ECHL) – 45 Games, 18 Goals, 26 Assists, 44 Points
2017-18: Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (AHL) – 57 Games, 14 Goals, 19 Assists, 33 Points
His previous coaches have sung his praises, about his work ethic and abilities. Clark Donatelli, head coach of the Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins previously said this:
“[Quinney]’s learned to play with pace, which is big for us. He’s an excellent puck handler. He put up a ton of points in junior… He seems to get it done. What can I say?”
During the 2018 Golden Knights Development Camp, their assistant director of player personnel, Bob Lowes, echoed Donatelli’s statements:
“What I’ve seen is a huge progress from junior to now in his skating. He’s in tremendous shape, and it’s really helped his game because his skating has gone to a different level. He’s always had the hands and the hockey sense.”
Hockey sense often comes up in prospect reports as some sort of intangible aspect hockey you cannot teach. Prospects in the draft often rise up or fall down draft boards if they are able to display this sense. With Lowes and Donatelli saying Quinney does have this sense, it’s a huge boon for him as he tries to crack the Knights’ main roster.
The Road Home to Vegas
Despite Quinney showing great potential and talent in the WHL, he was passed over during the NHL Entry Draft in 2016. Although this was a hurdle that most players are never able to overcome, Quinney used it as a motivator to go further with his career. When asked about it by The Times Leader, he said:
“To be un-drafted and passed up on kind of puts a chip on your shoulder. You want to prove to everybody that you were worth taking a chance on.”
Chip on your shoulder. That sounds an awful lot like the Golden Knights’ inaugural season, doesn’t it? A few other commentators talked about how teams should take a chance on Quinney in 2018. Writing for the HockeyWilderness.com, Dale Marinenko commented:
“He had 33 points (14 of them goals) in 57 games in the AHL last year and just under a point per game with 44 in 45 games the year before in the ECHL. He definitely has potential, as well as an efficient 15.6% shooting percentage. This guy could added some badly needed scoring for the Wild.”
Anybody who was able to watch all three scrimmages at The Golden Knights 2018 prospect camp could see that Quinney can compete with the best of the Knights prospects with his stick handling skills and sense of play. Everybody from coaches, to management, to the fans in attendance could only nod their heads in agreement. This kid’s got talent.
Of course, everything I’ve written is not conclusive. Quinney may never make an NHL roster and his heartwarming story of coming home and signing with the Golden Knights may just remain that, a story. I will give this young man one thing, though, he is doing everything in his power to prove himself. When interviewed by The Las Vegas Review Journal, He said:
“To sign with your hometown team is a dream come true, let alone to sign an NHL contract. I’m excited for what comes next.”
Quinney finished the 2018-19 AHL regular season with a rather impressive 43 points in 68 games, including a hat trick against the Cleveland Monsters on Oct 24. Some say him signing with the team is where the story ends. For me, his story is only just beginning.