In a time of great uncertainty, one thing remains stable; the Vegas Golden Knights rookies impressing us once again this month. The trio made up of Keegan Kolesar, Zach Whitecloud and Nicolas Hague all had a solid month of hockey-playing in February. It seems January’s sole purpose was for them to shake their preseason rust off because all three of these players got significantly better the month after. So, without further a due, let’s jump right in and analyze their play for the Golden Knights in the month of February
Kolesar built upon a solid month of January with an even better month of February. He only showed up on the stats sheet once for an assist in a 3-2 win over Anaheim on February 27th, but his play is so much more important to the Golden Knights than just stats.
His forechecking and willingness to get in the corners to get the puck adds the grit needed to balance out their offensive firepower. Too much finesse and skill become predictable, too much grit isn’t sustainable; a balance between the two is exactly what every NHL team needs. That is exactly what Kolesar serves as on this Golden Knights team. His intensity and hounding of the opposing teams allow the Golden Knights to come away with the puck most time in the opponent’s own zone, which in turn leads to more scoring chances.
Don’t take all this “tire-pumping” on how great Kolesar is from me, take it from the Golden Knights coaching staff as well. They obviously are liking what they see in terms of Kolesar’s play and have been steadily raising his ice-time over the month. Through all the games I watched in the month of February, Kolesar was committed to the play and jumped in on both sides of the puck. For this reason, I am raising his grade from last month to a significant improvement this month.
Final Grade for February: A
The Bemidji State alum enjoyed a super month of February, as he showed up on the scoresheet on four occasions, two of which were goals. What can I say, Whitecloud keeps on getting better and has been proving himself to be a standout on the Golden Knights blue-line.
The coaching staff, similar to Kolesar’s case, has been steadily adding more responsibility to Whitecloud’s role. He saw his ice-time rise in the month of February, his highest time on Ice being a 21:54 outing on February 5th, against the Los Angeles Kings. His puck movement and his defensive awareness come naturally to him, something surprising for a rookie in the NHL.
For Whitecloud to be getting the recognition he deserves at such an early stage in the season, he must be doing something right. His play impressed many the past month, which is why I am giving him another favourable grade.
Final Grade for the Month of February: A
The most impressive rookie, in my opinion, Hague seemingly came out of nowhere and has been a standout on the blue-line for the Golden Knights. The rookie Hague put up four points throughout the shortest month of the year, as well as registering a plus-5 rating.
Hague has been exceptional at using his large 6’6 frame, stifling opposing teams when trying to break into the Golden Knights’ offensive zone and his ability to jump into the offence and create chances. Throughout February, Hague has calmed his game down and appears to be coming into the NHL style of play nicely.
If he keeps this up, he will easily form a potent 1-2 punch with fellow rookie d-man Whitecloud in the following years to come. This absolute stud of a defenseman gets the best grade among all the rookies for his solid and consistent play throughout the month of February.
Final Grade for the Month of February: A+
With Vegas scheduled to play a super-condensed schedule in the month of March, these rookies will probably see their ice time rise as the coaching staff will lean on their depth more and more. With a significant rise in ice-time comes a significant rise in responsibility. The only question that remains is; are they up to the challenge?
Michael Vidakis is a Montreal native who writes for the Vegas Golden Knights team here at The Hockey Writers. In his spare time, he enjoys the finer things in life such as Jean-Claude Van Damme movies, staring aimlessly outside windows and tangerines.