Oftentimes, I like to look into a player's context both on and off the ice when looking for prospects that seem more likely to have bigger leaps in their development to come. When writing about Adam Jiříček, his context was missing so much time with an injury, as one example.

But sometimes a player just has a long period of terrible luck in every possible way, where both on and off ice issues can happen at the same time or one after another. Sometimes, you can look at the circumstances and just think "well no wonder he struggled" for a period of time.

This has been the case with Michael Hage, a player who, going into last season, was expected to be one of the top prospects of his draft class. Two major incidents happened that seem very likely to have affected his play for big chunks of the last two years. But if the second half of this season is any indication, those two incidents are now fully in the rear view mirror and he is starting to potentially reclaim that top prospect status.


  • Position: Right-Shot Center
  • League(s): USHL
  • Height: 6'1"
  • Weight: 190 lbs
  • Birthdate: April 14th, 2006

Here are his draft rankings, as of writing this:

  • Bob McKenzie: 36th
  • Elite Prospects: 24th
  • Scott Wheeler: 15th
  • Future Considerations: 25th
  • Dobber Prospects: 26th
  • McKeen's Hockey: 12th

Last season, Michael Hage was expected to form a dynamic duo of super rookies for the powerhouse Chicago Steel with Macklin Celebrini. Celebrini, of course, led the league in points last year as a D-1 player and went on to be one of the best players in the entire NCAA this season as a 17 year old.

Hage, on the other hand, suffered a serious shoulder injury during the pre-season and only returned in time to play in the last 13 regular season games. He had a good but uninspiring 10 points in those games, and added only 2 points in 6 playoff games. Scouts and Hage himself mentioned he was not fully recovered from the shoulder injury until a month or so into this season.

Part of that may be attributed to the mental side of things that Hage went through. During the off-season, not long before he was to resume training and pre-season activities, his father suddenly and tragically died in an accident. You can read more about that in Scott Wheeler's interview/article here:

Through ‘unimaginable’ loss, top 2024 NHL Draft prospect Michael Hage carries on
Hage, a projected first-round pick at the draft, lost his dad in an accident last summer. Their shared hockey dream has carried him through.

The combination of the lingering effects of the shoulder injury and any (understandable) distraction he had from the fallout of his father's death meant that Hage's start to the season was again not what people were expecting.

  • First half: 27 games, 13 goals, 17 assists, 30 points, -11
  • Second half: 27 games, 20 goals, 25 assists, 45 points, +27

In truth, his breakout came earlier than the halfway point. But he continued improving and looking more dominant as a top prospect and top line center. He's carried the Chicago team this year. Despite being perennial powerhouses in years past, this season Chicago had a relative down year as they didn't have as much of a star studded roster outside of Hage. So as he struggled to start the season, the team struggled to win games. But as Hage surged through the season, so did the team – to the point they went from one of the worst records to squeaking into a playoff spot.

On the season, Hage's 75 points in 54 games ties him for 3rd most in the entire USHL – regardless of age. By even strength points, he is tied for the most, and he threw in two shorthanded points for good measure. He became Mr. Everything for a lackluster team that needed a star.

From Mitch Brown's tracking data: https://www.patreon.com/user/posts?u=13951676


Any scouting report or tracking data that I find and any game or highlight clip I've watched, is reinforcing that Hage is the complete offensive package. He is a pretty high volume shooter, averaging 3.5 shots per game – he averaged almost 4 shots per game down the stretch. He actually had the fourth highest shot rate in the USHL, regardless of age. For U18 players, he was second. I point this out because for goal scoring, I'd say he relies more on volume – and volume from good locations – than pure shooting skill.

That said, I'd say that playmaking is his strongest skill. He is excellent at setting up teammates for good scoring opportunities, with good accuracy but also being a very good puck handler – both in terms of stick handling and shifty, agile skating – to create better passing lanes. He has a good sense of timing and vision to spot teammates and lead them with a well placed saucer pass.

From Will Scouch:

Michael Hage’s data profile is outstanding. Efficient offensive transition quarterback in every category equally. Super high rates of dangerous shooting, high rates of slot pass attempts, creating 40% of Chicago’s shot attempts on the ice... evasive, slippery, and has neat touch on the puck to make complex passes off the boards or at weird angles look easy.

The other way that Hage's puck handling skill comes through is on transitions where his tracking stands out the most. He was one of the league's best players on zone exits and entries because of his ability both in passing the puck safely up the ice, and to carry it himself while evading defenders in the neutral zone. Being a good transition player is one of the best ways to have a positive impact on possession, so being an elite transition guy is very valuable – especially for a center.

From Joey Padmanabhan at Elite Prospects:

Hage shines brightest off the rush, where he uses an arsenal of moves to create space for himself to navigate inside the blue line. He manipulates defenders, exchanges lanes with teammates and finds good outlets consistently, all while keeping his stride going.

Then there are all the small things that bring his game together. He has a good combination of "hockey IQ" and working hard on the ice. He handles pace well, though not in the usual ways you'd think. He processes the game in front of him and is able to react quickly, but his skating is not necessarily a major strength – more on that below. He also has a good sense of where to be on the ice at any given time.

From Scott Wheeler at The Athletic:

He’s got dual-threat skill as a shooter and passer, he’s naturally talented as a handler, he can create for himself or elevate a line, he plays hard, he stays on pucks, he battles, and he reads the game at an advanced level with an intelligent, studious approach to the way he maneuvers around the ice. I like him in puck control/protection. He's got detail and work ethic. He's also, I'm told, taller by an inch or two than his NHL Central Scouting listing, with room to fill out his lean and athletic frame after lost time in the gym.


So there are two flaws I've seen a few scouts mention that Hage has which, while not significant problems that cast a lot of doubt on his projection, are still noteworthy. First is that, while he is overall a good skater, a lot of scouts worry about the efficiency of his skating mechanics. It might not be something that limits him right now in junior, but would be something that holds him back at higher levels unless it can be fixed.

Usually, efficiency issues in skating mechanics can affect a player in one or two (or both) ways: agility or acceleration. For agility, how a player moves their feet or how their posture is maintained during their stride can make it slow and clunky when trying to make quick cuts or any lateral movements in tight spaces. For acceleration, it can be more an issue for how much power a player can generate in each stride – especially the first few strides from a stand still.

I'm going to be honest, skating mechanics is beyond me. You show me 100 different players and I'd tell you they all have the exact same mechanics as far as I can tell. I could watch a player and tell you if I think he looks fast, explosive, quick, and agile by just comparing how he looks in those areas relative to other prospects. But I couldn't explain to you how or why he gets to that level, or how projectable his skating is based on those mechanics.

The other thing is that while watching Hage skate, while I wouldn't say he looks like one of the best skaters of his peers I would say he is pretty speedy and agile. So I'm just going to pass on that note of his potential mechanical issues.

For his other potential issue, I like what Will Scouch noted about Hage recently – while he is an active defender, he is not necessarily the most effective one. His effort is there, and he is a pretty smart player normally, but the execution and consistency of his defensive efforts are not always there. Before reading Will's report on him, I'd have said that he looked like an okay defensive forward overall with some consistency issues. It's also interesting that Will is one of the scouts who called out his skating issues, and specifically when it comes to his ability to challenge other players defensively.


Hage has been one of my favourite prospects in this draft to follow. I knew of his injury from last season since I was already following the Chicago Steel when Moldenhauer was with them, so I was aware of his hype and his injury. I had heard that he was struggling to start this season when he still wasn't 100%, but I didn't learn of his father's tragic death until later in the season.

But I don't just like Hage for his life's story, though that does add some sentimentality to my cheering for him. He's also just a very fun player to watch. He's committed to join Michigan in the NCAA next year, which will be a pretty great program for him I think. And he'll likely have a good opportunity right away, since a few of their top 6 forwards turned pro after this season.

In the mid-season rankings, Bob McKenzie had Hage ranked 36th. Given how strong he finished his season, I am expecting him to be ranked higher – potentially much higher, but it's not like there aren't other prospects who were already ranked ahead of him that also had strong endings to the season. So I expect him to wind up being ranked within Toronto's range, even if his final ranking spot is a few spots before theirs.

I mean he has so many good things going for him. The skill and potential all-around game, the local Mississauga boy narrative, and everything he's had to overcome to get to this point. He is up there with Iginla and Jiříček as far as my personal favourites I'd love to see Toronto take, if they're available.

Thanks for reading!

I put a lot of work into my prospect articles here, both for the draft and Toronto's prospects. I do it as a fun hobby for me, and I'd probably do it in some capacity even if PPP completely ceased to exist. But if you like reading my work, some support would go a long way! I pay for a few streaming services (CHL, NCAA, USHL, the occasional TSN options for international tournaments that are broadcast) to be able to reliably watch these prospects in good quality streams. I also pay for some prospect-specific resources, such as tracking data and scouting reports from outlets like Elite Prospects, Future Considerations, McKeen's Hockey, The Athletic, and more.

Being able to get paid for this helps me dedicate more time and resources to it, rather than to second/third jobs. And whatever money I make here, a lot of I reinvest back into my prospect work through in those streaming and scouting services. Like I said, I'd be doing whatever I can afford for this anyway, so any financial help I get through this is greatly appreciated!

PPP Leafs Runs on Your Subscriptions

Consider making a commitment today.

Support PPP