Skip to main content


Hage transformed by tragedy during NHL draft season


The inside of the suit jacket that Michael Hage will wear to the NHL Draft on Friday night features pictures of his family and hockey life to this point. It also has the words, 'Don't move on, just move forward,' embroidered on it. 

"That's something my mom [Rania] has told me over the past year," the Chicago Steel centre said. "Just something she says a lot."

Hage's father, Alain, passed away suddenly last July in a freak swimming pool accident. 

"It means to move forward as if he's watching and do what he always wanted me to do and what he believed I could do," Hage said of his mom's message. "When someone so meaningful in your life, and someone who's been there all along, passes away, it's not something I'm ever going to move on from."

The 18-year-old from Mississauga, Ont. dedicated his draft season to his father.  

"He was everything to me as a kid," said Hage, who produced 33 goals and 75 points in 54 games in the USHL. "Growing up, he pushed me really hard, and he was my toughest critic but, at the same time, he was my biggest fan. I wouldn't be where I am today without him."

Hage, who will be heading to the University of Michigan this fall, is projected to be picked in Friday's first round at the Sphere in Las Vegas. The 6-foot-1, 188-pound pivot came in No. 24 in TSN Hockey insider Bob McKenzie's final rankings, which is based on a poll of scouts. 

TSN director of scouting Craig Button has Hage going at No. 17 to the Washington Capitals in his final mock draft

"He can play centre, he can play right wing," Button said. "His offensive play is sometimes subtle, but really effective. You cannot sleep on him in a game because if you do, that's when he strikes."

Hage's stock has been rising after a strong finish to the season. He piled up 51 points in his final 30 games and was only held off the scoresheet four times in that stretch since Dec. 29. 

"I think he would be really proud," Hage said of his dad. "I know how much confidence he had in me. He pushed me so hard because he really did believe in me. I wish he could be there, but you just got to hope he's watching."

In a conversation with TSN, Hage reflected on the adversity he has faced and explained how it has changed him.

The following is an edited transcript of the interview. 

TSN: How have you changed in the last year? 

Hage: I think maturity wise and just the perspective on life that I have. You look at things a little bit different when something like that happens in your life. I think now, as a person, I don't really let little things bother me and kind of understand a little bit more that bumps in the road are going to happen. I think I deal with that a lot better and handle adversity a lot better than I used to ... A lot of the times you got it pretty good and so many worse things can be happening. I feel like when you have that mentality it keeps you in a much better mental space and gives you a good attitude going into everything. 

TSN: When teams asked why they should pick you, what did you say?

Hage: The impact I'm able to make on the ice with all the tools I have. But, not only that, I think it's an investment in a person. I think the person they're getting is someone who is really passionate, really cares about this, and someone who has a why. I know why I do this. 

TSN: How would you describe your 'why' in hockey? 

Hage: First of all, how passionate I am and what I'm willing to do to get there but, at the same time, my dad. How much he put into this for me. He gave me every resource I needed as a kid. I try to do everything to make him proud. I know I'm not going to let him down, and I'm going to do everything I can to get there and be the best player I can be. 

TSN: You missed most of the 2022-23 season after sustaining a shoulder injury (torn labrum) in your first practice with the Steel. What did you learn from that experience?

Hage: It makes you so much more appreciative of the opportunity you have. It just made me so grateful to be able to show up to the rink every day and just play the game you love. When you're taken away from something for so long, and that was a long rehab process, like six months, it does really make you appreciate things. It just had me really excited for the opportunity to come back and play a full year healthy. I really wanted to make the most out of it. It just makes you really grateful. 

TSN: What clicked for you in the second half of the season? 

Hage: Just took some time to figure out what worked and what didn't. It was a mix of finding two linemates that I clicked with a lot and, at the same time, just trying to feel more confident. I felt like I got better every single day, starting from practice, as the year went on. It started to show more in that second half, which I was really happy about. At the same time, as a group, we started playing so much better and that helps. 

TSN: Where did you improve the most? 

Hage: My play away from the puck was an area of my game that my coaches were hard on me about. I felt it got better as the year went on and it helped me get more touches. It's something I'll continue to work on. It really did help me to get more touches and allowed me to make so many more plays down the stretch. 

TSN: What was your best game of the season?

Hage: It's tough to choose one, but I think against Sioux Falls, not too long after Christmas, I felt like I had a pretty good weekend [three goals and four points in two games Jan. 5-6]. I felt like I was creating a lot and, at the same time, being a good leader. I just felt really confident about my game and felt like I was creating a lot of plays. It's obviously nice when you get the results, and everything clicks. I felt like that was the start of the second half and it was a really good weekend for me.  

TSN: You interviewed with 31 teams at the NHL scouting combine. What was the toughest question you faced? 

Hage: I got a tough one from Montreal. It was, If your teammate comes back to the room at 3 a.m. and [head coach] Marty St. Louis asks you the next day, 'Did he come back at 3 a.m.?' What do you say? I said, 'No.' They came back at me with, 'Oh, so you want guys like that on your team?' I just said, 'That's my teammate and someone I care about, and I'll try to help him out first and get him back on the right track. If that doesn't happen over a number of occasions maybe the answer is different.' 

TSN: Who is your NHL role model? 

Hage I really like Jack Eichel. I like the way he plays the game. He's got size, and he's skilled and a really good skater. He's just someone I can take a lot of things from, and I really enjoy watching.  

TSN: Craig Button, in his penultimate mock draft, had you going to the Toronto Maple Leafs. When you think about that possibility, what goes through your mind? 

Hage: It would be really cool, I think. Obviously an extremely passionate fan base. They really do care. An Original Six team, it would be really special. Wherever I land I'll be extremely happy.  

TSN: What stood out about the interview with the Leafs? 

Hage It was good. It was one of the easier meetings. No odd questions. It was pretty standard. It went well. They're all really good people. 

TSN: Were you a Leafs fan growing up? 

Hage No. My parents are both from Montreal, so I grew up a Habs fan in Toronto. 

TSN: What was your most memorable fan moment? 

Hage: Coming back from 3-1 down against the Leafs [in 2021] was one of the more special ones. I remember watching with my mom, dad, brother, and I was pretty ecstatic when they did that. That whole run was a pretty cool memory for me. 

TSN: How many friends and family will you have with you in Vegas for the draft? 

Hage: Maybe 30-ish with extended family, cousins, things like that, and old coaches that have been there throughout the whole jointed, plus a couple teammates. 

TSN: What will Friday night be like for you and your family?

Hage: Really, really hard to describe. It will be a really special moment. It's hard to put into words how meaningful it will be until it happens. It's something you look forward to as a kid. Watching the NHL growing up, you don't know how much of a possibility it really is. Any time you do anything for your whole life and dream of something, and the fact that it's becoming a reality, it's really special. No one really gets here alone. That's not possible. So, I think it will be a really special moment for everyone.