Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018 | 2 a.m.
Tomas Nosek skated on the Golden Knights' top line during Sunday night’s preseason opener, and he fit in perfectly.
The power forward chased Arizona back into its own zone after the game’s opening face-off. There he corralled the puck behind the Coyotes' net and threw it into the slot where Jonathan Marchessault one-timed it into the goal.
It took only 16 seconds, and Nosek didn’t stop there.
He added two more assists, as the top line dominated in Vegas’ 7-2 win.
Make no mistake, when the regular season starts, Reilly Smith will be playing alongside Marchessault and William Karlsson. But Nosek has shown an improved offensive game this training camp, and after producing under the bright lights he could be in line for a promotion.
Last season he played mostly on the Golden Knights’ fourth line and penalty kill unit. He filled those roles well but wasn’t used much offensively. If he continues his progression he could find himself on the second or third line for the Oct. 4 regular-season opener.
“It’s different hockey for sure (playing on the top line). I tried to enjoy every moment,” Nosek said. “It was a lot of fun and an unusual role for me, but it was good.”
Nosek scored only seven goals during the regular season last year, and was fifth among forwards with 1:30 of average time on the penalty kill.
In Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, Nosek exploded for two goals to help the Golden Knights to what would be their only victory of the series. Nosek worked on his offensive skills during the summer in hopes of carrying that into camp.
“I worked a lot with my skills coach in the Czech Republic and tried to do things a little different than in past years,” Nosek said. “I did a lot of power skating and drills with a lot of moves in tight areas, and of course worked on shooting a lot.”
The difference was noticeable during the first week of training camp. Nosek scored multiple highlight-reel goals during inter-squad scrimmages, earning a chance to play on the top line in the preseason opener.
“I like his game,” Gallant said. “I don’t know how many goals he scored last year because I'm not a numbers guy. He scored some big goals for us last year. He played well. I want him to come in and do the same thing he did last year.”
The first line is already settled with Karlsson, Marchessault and Smith, who combined to put up the best numbers of any line in the NHL last season. Two-thirds of the second line is guaranteed to be newcomers Paul Stastny and Max Pacioretty.
Nosek could play as a second-line winger if Gallant wants to bolster the third line with both Alex Tuch and Erik Haula. Or he could slot into the third line. Either way, it appears Nosek is ready to make a leap in his offensive output, which is good news for the Golden Knights.
“Everyone wants to play more and get more ice time,” Nosek said. “I think that’s everyone goal for the season, and I think if I work hard I might get the chance. If not, I’ll still play my hardest to help the team in whatever way I can.”