Last summer, the Nashville Predators engaged in a blockbuster three-team trade, acquiring forward Cody Glass from the Vegas Golden Knights and defender Philippe Myers from the Philadelphia Flyers. Forward Nolan Patrick and defender Ryan Ellis moved in return.
Nearly a year later, that deal has gone mostly south for all three teams. Ellis, who played just four games, had a season ruined by injury and looks close to the end of his career; Patrick notched just seven points in 25 games for Vegas; and Myers was frequently scratched in Nashville, demoted to the AHL, and is likely to be bought out this summer. The last man standing? Cody Glass.
Glass was always the most enticing part of this deal, which led to many being disappointed when he was sent down to the AHL just two games into the regular season. But despite this being his fourth year in pro hockey, Glass had never played a full year in the AHL until this season, and when he came to Nashville last summer, there were glaring aspects of his game that just weren’t NHL-ready.
The positive news is that no one could’ve questioned his defensive prowess then (or now), but his foot speed and (lack of) acceleration brought doubts about whether he could be a true difference-maker in Nashville. In September, Mitch Brown at EP Rinkside identified three critical skills foundational to Glass resurrecting his game: timing, tracing, and tracking.
Brown wrapped those three skills up under the umbrella of offensive rhythm and noted that Glass excelled on all fronts in his junior career. In his short NHL career, Glass’s timing woes have made the rest of his game go awry. So, after a 66-game, 62-point season with Milwaukee, has Glass shored up those deficiencies as he hunts down a full-time NHL roster spot next year? Let’s take a look.
First, let’s get some definitions out of the way. Tracking is self-explanatory and something Glass has always excelled at; he’s constantly scanning the ice (both on and off the puck) to anticipate plays and his next move once he gets possession. Brown defines tracing as the ability to move hands and feet to trace a lane through the defense toward a target; tracing goes hand-in-hand with tracking, and again, Glass has always done well at tracing the puck up the ice. Timing is also self-explanatory, but it’s a two-way street. The best offensive playmakers can slow down a play just as well as they can speed one up; the key is in figuring out when to do which.
The biggest hurdle Glass has to overcome in reaching the NHL is his skating mechanics, and that’s very doable. There are plenty of skilled top-six forwards who are average or mediocre skaters. Glass’s skating fundamentals are solid, but he suffers from a slow first step and lacks top speed due, in part, to incomplete stride extensions and choppy recoveries. But, in the shift above, Glass shows us how he can work through those issues.
On this penalty kill, notice how active Glass’s (#19) head movements are and how sweeping his stick movements are. He covers passing lanes from the top of the crease to the top of the circles and successfully blocks a cross-ice pass. When a rebound kicks out to him, you can see his speed limitations, but he keeps his head up and works the puck up ice to kill some of Cleveland’s power play. His turnover is inevitable, but he sticks with the play, forces a giveaway, and—thanks to his pre-scans—sets up Jimmy Huntington for an easy goal.
On this shift, notice how Glass does an over-the-shoulder check before scooping up the puck in the defensive zone. As he weaves through the neutral zone, he keeps his head up but doesn’t give away his next move by staring down the entire Rockford defense. When that play is broken up, Glass quietly skates back, secures an easy takeaway inside his defensive end, and picks his head up mid-turn to track his teammate up the ice, ultimately delivering a beautiful stretch pass for a primary assist.
So, it’s clear Glass has his tracking skills down. What about tracing and timing? Let’s take a look at the shift above. As Chicago attempts a zone entry, Glass puts himself in a great puck-support position to constrict the play along the wall. This pulls the Wolves to one side of the ice and opens a seam for Matt Luff between two defenders. When Glass recovers the puck, he looks straight up the ice—where the Chicago skaters are concentrated—buying time for Luff to accelerate beyond that layer of defense. He’s still looking along the wall as he loads up a pass to spring Luff for an eventual breakaway goal.
On this shift, Glass gives us a perfect example of good tracing and timing. As he pulls into the neutral zone with the puck, he knows Rocco Grimaldi is pulling up on his left and registers that the Manitoba defender (#9) is pinching toward the opposite side of the ice in an attempt to cut the rush off early. Glass continues his deception by tracing the play where the defender wants it to go with his feet and eyes, but then pulls up and times his pass perfectly; Manitoba’s #47 can’t reach it and #9 has his back turned to the play.
In the shift above, Glass deploys himself in a good puck-support position in the defensive zone but doesn’t stay stagnant as the puck moves laterally, so he’s in a good spot to join the Admirals’ breakout in a timely manner. He follows that up with an even better puck-support position as Brayden Burke enters the offensive zone, forcing Manitoba to pull two skaters towards the wall and focusing their net-front defender’s attention that way too. The second Glass receives the puck, he looks across the zone to recognize his ultimate passing destination. He then swivels his head forward, maintaining the same foot direction, before timing his primary-assist pass perfectly—demonstrated by how slow the net-front defender’s reaction time is.
In the play shown above, Glass demonstrates further improvement in his offensive timing. As he ambles into the defensive zone, he does one shoulder check to his left to register Texas’s second forechecker (F2) and then picks his head up as he’s corraling the puck around the faceoff dot. Glass, seeing how much speed he has, knows he won’t explode past the first forechecker (F1), but he’s also already tracked the second forechecker (F2, on the opposite side)’s skating path. As F1 barrels toward him, he subtly lowers his bottom hand, pulling the puck back closer to his body, and firing a brilliant stretch pass up and across the zone just out of the reach of a streaking F2.
This final clip is a showcase of Glass at his best in the offensive zone. After the faceoff, he immediately goes to support Cole Schneider, batting the puck back down into the corner to keep the cycle alive. He then uses his strength to evade Manitoba #16’s puck protection stance while keeping his weight shifted towards the far side of the net. After winning the takeaway, Glass uses some nifty edge work to power his way to the net-front and roof the puck past the Moose’s goaltender.
It’s these kinds of plays, and a successful combination of timing, tracking, and tracing—on and off the puck—that allowed Glass to be Milwaukee’s leading scorer this year with 62 points in 66 games. In hindsight, it’s ridiculous to discount the need for a full season in the AHL even for a top-ten draft pick, and, with some added strength (and subsequent quickness), Glass should be ready for a full-time role in Nashville in 2022-23.