If the Canadiens are hoping to shore up their blue line with the third overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, the odds are they would target a left shot, puck-moving defenceman, and there is a player that fits the bill perfectly in American Quinn Hughes. Outside of Rasmus Dahlin, Hughes is the only left-shot defenceman projected to go in the top ten, with Noah Dobson, Adam Boqvist, and Evan Bouchard all shooting right.
As the youngest player in the NCAA with the University of Michigan last year, Hughes showed continual improvement as a rare “true freshman” and by the end of the season was one of the best defenders in college hockey. Despite being undersized, Hughes brings an intriguing package of skills, including elite level skating that would be attractive to just about every team in the modern NHL.
DOB: October 14, 1999
CSB: 6 (North American Skaters)
Hockey Prospect: 9
Future Considerations: 6
The Hockey News: 6
TSN (Button): 6
Hughes has many of the tools to be an excellent offensive defenceman in the NHL. Most conversations about him start with his skating, which is elite and potentially the best in the draft. He possesses tremendous end-to-end speed while being quick and agile; this allows him to join the rush and recover from mistakes quickly. As he’s matured he has learned to be more calculating in his risk-taking and has begun to use his intelligence and hockey sense more effectively to control the pace of the game.
Hughes is more of a playmaker than a shooter, and while he possesses a good wrist shot, he will need to work on adding more power in order for it be more effective at the NHL level. This goes hand in hand with his need to bulk up in general; while being undersized is less of an issue in the NHL at this time, he’ll need to add strength in order to win puck battles at the professional level. A need to add strength and perhaps put some more work into the defensive aspects of his game make another NCAA season a potentially good choice for all parties.
It is unclear if Hughes will return to the University of Michigan next season or sign with the team that drafts him right away. His strong performance at the World Championships this year has improved his stock and a potential immediate jump to the NHL on the radar. That said, it is likely that another year in the NCAA and the chance to shine at the World Juniors may be the best way forward for the young defenceman. This would give him more time to build up strength and round out his defensive game before making the jump to the big leagues.
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