Okay, so maybe Orlando, Fla., isn’t the first place you think of when you’re looking for America’s next great puck-moving, free-wheeling defenceman.
But that’s where Quinton Hughes hails from, and his leap to the NHL in the near future could popularize the sport considerably down there.
He’s a small, but stocky player. A fast, agile, gifted skater, and an offensive force who reads the play well, gets by on positioning, and passes with authority.
Hughes might also be the first defenceman drafted after Rasmus Dahlin has his name called first overall by the Buffalo Sabres in this year’s NHL Draft.
Here’s what you need to know about Quinn Hughes.
Team: Michigan Wolverines
From: Orlando, Fla.
Weight: 174 pounds
WHEELING AND DEALING
The consensus about Hughes is that his skating is off the charts.
That’s a prerequisite for a young player hoping to establish himself in the NHL shortly after being drafted, but it’s a particularly important attribute for a slight defenceman to have if he’s to excel in today’s game.
NHL Central Scouting’s David Gregory calls Hughes “a smooth-skating, mobile defenceman who carries the puck very well and can transition from defence to offence with his feet or by making a pass.”
Think Brian Rafalski at the high end, or Torey Krug a bit lower down. Either way, whoever drafts this kid is going to have a top-four defenceman on their hands.
PROLIFIC FROM THE START
As a member of the U.S. National Development Team last season, Hughes did something Boston Bruins defenceman Charlie McAvoy, Columbus Blue Jackets defencemen Seth Jones and Zach Werenski and Carolina Hurricanes defenceman Noah Hanifin all couldn’t.[sidebar]
Hughes put up the highest points-per-game average ever recorded by a USHL defenceman who was more than a year out from draft eligibility, notching four goals and 26 points in 26 games.
All we can say is, wow!
MATURE BEYOND HIS YEARS
How about a 29-point output in 37 games as a true freshman at Michigan University? That’s an outstanding sign of a player who rises up and plays his best at a higher level of competition.
Here’s a look at when Hughes participated in the 2018 World Championship in Denmark as an undrafted 18-year-old. He recorded two assists and was a plus-4 in 10 games.
THE HUGHES HOCKEY BLOODLINE
Quinn and his family moved north to Toronto when his father, Jim, took an assistant coaching job with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies before eventually taking another as director of player development with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“My dad would bring home clips and we’d watch a lot of NHL hockey together,” Quinn told the Detroit News earlier this year.
Brothers Jack and Luke were always in on the action, too. The former is being considered as a potential first overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, and the latter is already turning heads at 14.
“It’s very competitive [between the brothers],” said Quinn. “It doesn’t matter if it’s mini-sticks or ping-pong or who’s got the remote. It was really fun growing up. It was pretty crazy. I’m sure it was stressful on mom.”