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January 19, 2019

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Golden Knights win preseason opener, develop rookies along the way

VGK Preseason Opener Against Arizona Coyotes

Christopher DeVargas

The Vegas Golden Knights celebrate after scoring a second goal against Arizona in the first period of their preseason opener at T-Mobile Arena, Sunday Sept. 16, 2018. The Golden Knights beat Arizona 7-2.

The Golden Knights trounced the Arizona Coyotes 7-2 in their preseason opener Sunday night at T-Mobile Arena.

Stars William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault picked up where they left off last season with a dominating performance and three combined goals. Tomas Nosek took advantage of playing with the pair on the top line with three assists.

But as impressive as the final score was, it’s not what’s important.

The preseason — particularly the first couple games — is about developing young players for the future of the franchise, and the Golden Knights are doing that by pairing youngsters with seasoned veterans.

First-round pick Cody Glass skated on a line with veteran Max Pacioretty. Rookie defenseman Erik Brannstrom was paired with Brad Hunt, and Nic Hague played with multiple veterans including Colin Miller on the power play.

“We mix up a lot of the lines with kids and veteran players,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “That’s what training camp (and preseason) is all about, to give the kids the opportunity to play with some of those guys.”

Glass skated alongside Pacioretty, who is one of the fastest wingers in the NHL.

“He plays at a really high pace and that’s something I need moving forward. It pushes my pace for myself and helps me take it to the next level,” Glass said. “Obviously he has a good shot, and I know I’m a good passer so if I can find him in those small areas it doesn’t take him much to get a good shot off and score.”

Pacioretty enjoys being a mentor.

“When I got traded here I kind of looked up some of the guys, and it seems like (Glass) is the stud here, the high draft pick,” Pacioretty said. “You can tell in his game. He’s a big, strong center and has a right handed shot and you don’t see many of those.”

During Pacioretty’s rookie season in Montreal he remembers getting valuable advice veteran Saku Koivu, who was in his 13th NHL season. Pacioretty picked the Finn’s brain about things as minute as angles, lies and lengths of hockey sticks, and what benefits you can gain by each.

“They’re little things but they can make situations on the ice easier. Europeans know more about that type of stuff than most Americans,” Pacioretty said. “He taught me a lot on the ice too, but what sticks out to me was the time in the stick room tweaking stuff.”

Pacioretty scored his first goal as a Golden Knight Sunday night, albeit in an exhibition game. Glass picked up an assist with a good centering pass to Hague, who rifled it past Arizona goalie Darcy Kuemper after toe-dragging around a sliding defender.

Hague played a game-high 26:49 of ice time and finished with four shots and six blocks.

“After a couple shifts you get settled in,” he said. “You get hit a couple times, throw a couple hits and make a couple passes and you realize it’s just like every other hockey game I’ve ever played in my life.”

Hague said he also benefits from playing with the veterans like Hunt, Miller and Nick Holden.

“When I get to share the bench with those guys and be on the ice with them I try to be a sponge and take everything in,” Hague said. “The guys here have been awesome with me. They’ll come up to me on the bench and talk me through situations and even if it’s just saying ‘good play’ that means a lot to a 19-year-old kid.”

Next up for the Golden Knights is a three-game road trip to Colorado, Los Angeles and San Jose as they continue the seven-game preseason schedule. Gallant will begin trimming the roster down as the regular season nears, but in the meantime it’s a great chance for the rookies to continue their development while simultaneously fighting for a spot on this year’s team.

“Those guys have made great careers for themselves and they’re here for a reason,” Hague said of the veteran defensemen on the team, “so I try to watch them and pick up little things because that’s the position I want to be in, and hopefully pretty soon.”

Jesse Granger can be reached at 702-259-8814 or [email protected]. Follow Jesse on Twitter at twitter.com/JesseGranger_.

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