Pete DeBoer saw a glimpse or two when the 2019-20 NHL season began, before the COVID-19 pause and the world changed and nothing was the same again.
He was the San Jose Sharks’ coach when Cody Glass was a rookie centering a Golden Knights’ line of Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty. Not a bad middle in which to exist.
“I saw (Glass) from the other bench that first week we played them, and he looked fantastic,” said DeBoer, who was eventually fired by the Sharks and hired by the Knights to replace Gerard Gallant in January 2020. “I haven’t had a lot of time to coach him, but he was really good a year ago and is now bigger, faster, stronger.”
Glass is one of the more intriguing training camp storylines, the first draft pick in franchise history at No. 6 overall in 2017 who hasn’t played a game in 11 months following knee surgery.
Where the 21-year-old will begin the season — centering Stone and Pacioretty again or a third line with Alex Tuch and Nicolas Roy — isn’t yet known, but wouldn’t it make more sense to have him play his way into a top six role rather than start him there and a potentially rusty game not totally respond?
Remembering 2017 class
I know. You have to be comatose not to elevate your production when teamed with a player such as Stone. But 11 months isn’t a week. The 6-foot-2-inch Glass might have put on enough muscle to now weigh near 207 pounds, but nothing replaces actual ice time at the highest level.
He has centered the third line the first two days of camp. It’s the best — and smartest — place for him right now as Chandler Stephenson centers Stone and Pacioretty.
There are no preseason games this season because of the pandemic. Everything begins for real Jan. 14 against Anaheim. You would think the easiest way to reintroduce Glass to all the speed and skill is exactly what we’ve seen early in camp.
“(Glass) is developing,” Stone said. “He’s trying to get better. He took a negative (with the injury) and tried to turn it into a positive. When you’re out that long, it can be tough, but he put in the work. Now he’s just looking to improve every day of camp.”
Injuries aside, players grow at different rates. Some progress faster than others. It’s also true that first-round picks are forever judged and evaluated by their particular draft class.
In the case of 2017, three chosen ahead of Glass — defensemen Miro Heiskanen (Dallas) and Cale Makar (Colorado) and center Elias Pettersson (Vancouver) — are already budding NHL stars.
Glass is still trying to carve a niche. Cement a role. Stay healthy.
The extra strength will help. In the corners. Battling for pucks. Taking draws, of which he wasn’t particularly good at as a rookie. All of it comes with expectations. You just get the feeling, is all. It’s time for Glass to take a big step forward.
He needs to. The Knights need him to. If anything holds them back from contending for the Stanley Cup title, it will come down the middle.
“It’s hard,” Glass said. “For as much as I want to be an impact player right away, I know that’s kind of hard for me right now. So I’m just trying to take my time to get right back into it. For me, I put a lot of pressure on myself and expect a ton out of myself … For me, I think it’s just more reps, more opportunity.
“Coming back right now, I’m just trying to take it day to day and get back to my normal self.”
A positive: Depending on how center spots fall, Glass has the versatility to play wing. It’s not where the team would prefer him, but it’s where young centers often begin NHL careers.
Less pressure. Less responsibility. Less need for a 200-foot game.
“The wingers have a little easier time in this league with what we ask centers to do,” DeBoer said. “(Glass) is intriguing for me as a centerman because you can’t find playmaking centers (his size). I think, long term, that’s definitely what he’s going to be here.”
As for the short term, it’s time.
Cody Glass needs to take that step, no matter from which line he does so.
Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at email@example.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.