Quinn Hughes and the Canucks have a decision to make: does he play another year of College or make the jump to professional hockey? The seventh overall pick of this year’s draft is expected to be a staple of Vancouver’s defense of the future, so it’s only a matter of if and not when does he make the jump.
The Vancouver Canucks are headed in the right direction. The 2017-18 season’s climax saw them bid an emotional farewell to two of their all-time greats, Henrik and Daniel Sedin, the Swedish twins drafted in 1999. Having been part of the organization since the turn of the last century, saying goodbye signaled the end of an era, whilst opening the doors to a new one- the era of Bo Horvat, Brock Boeser, and Elias Pettersson. These three players, drafted in 2013, 2015 and 2017, respectively, will form the crux of the Canucks’ offensive core for years to come. Quinn Hughes will be the core of Vancouver’s defense.
Hughes, who was not yet born when the Sedins were drafted, is expected to be a gamechanger, much like the twins were when they introduced their trademark style of hockey to the NHL. His style of play is exemplary of the new age defenceman, embodied by his elite skating and transition game that allows him to make plays against far bigger competition.
Albeit slight of frame, Hughes has proven himself as one of the brightest defensive prospects in the world. This year’s first overall pick, Rasmus Dahlin, chosen by the Buffalo Sabres has received plenty of buzz as one of the best defensive prospects ever drafted, though that shouldn’t distract from Hughes’ own potential, and the so-called ‘generational’ talents he possesses.
Having impressed at the collegiate level as the youngest player in the NCAA division one, Hughes was selected to represent Team USA at the IIHF World Championship in Denmark earlier this year. There he proved himself capable of playing against some of the best players in the world, leaving an impression on names like Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks.
That Hughes fell to the Canucks on the 22nd of June in Dallas was something that visibly excited Jim Benning (Vancouver General Manager), who was pleased to address an organizational need for blueliners by selecting him with the seventh pick.
If Hughes decides to play for the Canucks this fall, it would not at all be surprising that he may lead the team in points from the blueline, especially since he is touted as a power-play specialist. He has shown he is capable of playing against players of an NHL caliber and most certainly will be among the best of the Canucks once he transitions to the team.
What will be interesting to see is whether it is deemed necessary for him to take some time to condition himself and get bigger and stronger, a measure that would help mitigate the rigours of a full NHL season. His size may be a concern; at 5’10 and 174lbs, he will be among the smallest players in the league. Regardless of that query, Hughes has demonstrated that his style of play allows him to succeed without using much physicality.
Since he is not a prospect from the CHL, he is eligible to play in the AHL should he not return to college. The Canucks are expected to find out later this week what his plans are, though regardless of the decision won’t be expecting to rush things- the rebuild is still in motion, and winning is not yet a priority.