Glass proving his worth during Wolves' playoff run

Since the NHL began a second phase of expansion in 1991, there have been 10 players who can say they were the first draft pick in a franchise's history.

Every one played in at least 455 games, and five — Tampa Bay's Roman Hamrlik, Ottawa's Alexei Yashin, Anaheim's Paul Kariya, Nashville's David Legwand and Minnesota's Marian Gaborik — racked up 600 or more points.

Seventeen years after the Wild and Blue Jackets were born, the NHL added a 31st franchise in the Vegas Golden Knights. And on June 23, 2017, general manager George McPhee stood on stage at the United Center and announced that Cody Glass was the first pick in his team's history.

Not quite two years later, Glass has returned to the Windy City and fit in seamlessly with the Chicago Wolves, scoring 6 goals in 13 games, including the game-winner in overtime against Iowa in Game 1 of a second-round Calder Cup playoff series.

“He's been a great addition to our team,” linemate Tye McGinn said. “Can't say enough good things about him. He's a great kid on and off the ice. … Vegas has a great player on their hands.”

Out of nowhere

Speaking with Glass isn't like speaking with most 20-year-olds. There's a Jonathan Toews-like maturity here that figures to take him a long way.

For evidence, consider this: When asked about his heroes growing up, Glass talked about his dad first.

“They're very, very close,” said Mike Johnston, who coached Glass for three years with the Portland Winterhawks in the Western Hockey League. “His dad sacrificed a lot — both work-wise and time-wise — so Cody could stay in hockey. Cody learned to appreciate that for sure.”

Said Glass, whose father is a postal carrier: “My dad was a big hero of mine. Just battling through every day at work and putting me through hockey.”

Glass' meteoric rise began thanks to a 32-goal, 62-assist campaign with the Winterhawks in 2016-17. Before that, the Manitoba native was barely on anyone's radar and considered only a “C Prospect.”

“I was trying to be a second- or third-round pick — tops,” Glass said. “And then obviously pushed my way up to the sixth overall pick. …

“To be the first-ever pick of an expansion team is special. It doesn't happen very often, so it was a very special day for me and my family.”

Glass continued thriving in Portland — racking up 37 more goals and 65 assists in 2017-18 — but this season he suffered an injury that forced him to miss about two months. He returned for a season-ending playoff game March 30, then was on his way to Chicago to play for the Wolves.

His game

Six days after Portland's season came to an end, Glass suited up in his professional debut at Milwaukee. All he did that night was score a pair of goals while being placed into a top-six role.

Glass is now centering the Wolves' second line. His ice awareness, skating ability and 200-foot game are on display every night, and he's a big reason coach Rocky Thompson's squad is just 2 victories from the conference final.

“His vision and ability to make plays is outstanding,” said Johnston, who compares Glass to Nashville's Ryan Johansen. “Cody won't have (Ryan's) weight to him because he has a slimmer frame. He got knocked down a lot when he was a young kid in our league. Wasn't strong on the puck.

“But he's worked hard these last couple summers … spending extra time in the weight room to develop his core strength and his first couple of steps so he can separate from guys.”

Glass' biggest moment thus far came Wednesday when he pounded home the game-winner against Iowa with 1:21 remaining in overtime. The most impressive part of the play was how Glass slyly found a piece of open ice just 20 feet from the net, then quickly got into shooting position as McGinn's pass zipped through two Wild players.

Glass admitted he “blacked out” for a couple of seconds after the puck hit the back of the net.

“I'm not even sure what I did for a celly,” Glass chuckled.

Said veteran forward T.J. Tynan: “I can't even imagine coming in at the age he is. It's incredible what he's able to do.”

The future

It will be interesting to see what a loaded Vegas squad decides to do with Glass next season.

They could slot him into a third- or fourth-line role, or just as easily allow him to develop with the Wolves as one of their core players.

In some ways, it's not much different from when the Blackhawks were deciding whether to start Alex DeBrincat in the minors in 2017. Coach Joel Quenneville's staff ended up keeping DeBrincat, playing him mostly on the third line and watching him lead the team with 28 goals.

“I feel like confidence is a huge thing,” Glass said. “So being in the AHL — playing top-line minutes, top power play — it will give you the confidence going into that next level.

“But then again I feel like if you're ready to play in the NHL, then you're ready. You've just got to get that opportunity.”

That opportunity most certainly will arrive at some point for Glass. And when it does, he figures to enjoy a long, fruitful career.

Cody Glass - the first draft pick in Vegas Golden Knights history - has proved to be a quick study and is playing a key role for the Chicago Wolves during the playoffs. Said veteran forward T.J. Tynan: "I can't even imagine coming in at the age he is. It's incredible what he's able to do." Courtesy of Chicago Wolves

History makers

NHL statistics of the players taken as the first pick of expansion franchises since 1991:

Team, year, player, draft position G A Pts. GP

San Jose, 1991: Pat Falloon, No. 2 143 179 322 575

Tampa Bay, 1992: Roman Hamrlik, No. 3 155 483 638 1,395

Ottawa, 1992: Alexei Yashin, No. 2 337 444 781 850

Anaheim, 1993: Paul Kariya, No. 4 402 587 989 989

Florida, 1993: Rob Niedermayer, No. 5 186 283 469 1,153

Nashville, 1998: David Legwand, No. 2 228 390 618 1,136

Atlanta, 1999: Patrik Stefan, No. 1 64 124 188 455

Minnesota, 2000: Marian Gaborik, No. 3 407 408 815 1,035

Columbus, 2000: Rostislav Klesa, No. 4 48 111 159 659

Notes: Atlanta is now Winnipeg; All players are forwards except Klesa

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