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Photo Credit: Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire

First Round Targets: QUINN HUGHES

“Skate, Skate, Skate.”

The famous slogan of the Red Wings has never been more applicable when it comes to Quinn Hughes. I think gifted would be the appropriate term to describe him. He’s a unique talent that has the ability to do things not many other players can. That all starts with skating. He’s one of the best skaters I’ve seen in my life, let alone in this draft class.

He has an it factor because you can see he plays the game differently than everyone else. Players like Connor McDavid, Patrick Kane, Mat Barzal and Jeff Skinner come to mind. His past season at the University of Michigan has cemented himself among the very best in this years draft.

Eye Test

What I love about Hughes’ game, is he’s always looking to make a play and move his feet. I think of him as a smarter Nate Schmidt/Michael Matheson. Like I mentioned before, he is easily the best skater in the draft, and he uses it to his advantage. His “escape-ability” is one of his major tools. He is fantastic on his edges and can quickly accelerate, making it look like child’s play as he eludes defenders and advances the puck up the ice. The clips below depict that (he is number 43 for Michigan):

In that last clip, we also saw Hughes make a great read to pressure the puck carrier and eliminate a scoring chance. That is another element of his game – a smart defender who understands when and when not to make an aggressive play on both sides of the ice.

Here he takes away the pass for the two-on-one, sees the puck carrier opt to take the shot, and quickly react to block the shot.

Sees its a one-on-one situation, steps up and takes away space, stick checks the puck and gets out of the zone.

This was in a crucial part of the game – Michigan down one with under ten minutes and their season on the line – Hughes makes a great pinch to keep the puck in, which leads to the tying goal.

My favorite attribute of his is his relentless mentality of attack. He can control a game in the neutral zone, as his speed and skating ability forces defenders to back off because of how dynamic his up-tempo style is. He is a zone entry machine, which is a rare commodity for defensemen in today’s NHL. This doesn’t grow on trees people:

Now he’s not the second coming, he has flaws in his game. He is small – listed as 5’10” and 174 lbs. He competes hard, but at the end of the day, he is being out-muscled by bigger players. His goal needs to be getting bigger and stronger. This is just one example of where he was not just out-muscled, but flat-out ran-over:

Brady Tkachuk and Jordan Greenway basically stampeded him on their way to tying the game, in what was in all honesty, quite embarrassing for Hughes.

Stats

Numbers wise, Hughes is also impressive. He is the only defensemen in history to score at a point-per game in the USHL in his D-2 season. For reference, Hughes had a P/PG of 1.00 (26 points in 26 games), the next closest is Charlie McAvoy with a P/PG of 0.83 (19 points in 23 games). He finished that season with the U.S. U18 National Team, scoring fifty-three points in sixty-five games.

This past season he spent with the Michigan Wolverines, as the youngest player in college hockey (although making him one of the older draft prospects this season). He played big minutes for new head coach Mel Pearson, helping U.M. reach the Frozen Four. As a freshman he scored twenty-nine points in thirty-seven games, en route to being named to the Big ten all-rookie team and the Big ten second all-star team. In comparison to other NCAA defensemen in their D-1 season, he shapes up well.

Is it a Motor City Match

The obvious problem in Detroit is on the blue-line. However, in recent years the club has been improving the defensive prospect pool. Now there is a surplus of smaller defensemen such as Joe Hicketts, Filip Hronek, and Vili Saarijarvi. Hughes being on the smaller side would leave many wondering how realistic is it to have the future crop of defense to be under-sized, while also looking to be a contender. However, when you have an elite talent like Hughes, any thought of positional needs affecting the decision to draft him or not needs to be thrown out the window.

With a top-10 pick, it only make sense to draft best player available. If he is still there come the Red Wings draft choice, he must certainly be in consideration to don the winged wheel.


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