One of the many questions regarding this upcoming Vancouver Canucks’ season was whether the team’s first-round pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, Quinn Hughes, would turn professional right away.
(Some—but not nearly all—of the other questions: How will Jim Benning adapt to a Trevor Linden-free organization? Is Sven Baertschi a first-line winger? Can Ben Hutton bounce back? Who will play with Elias Pettersson?)
Hughes would have joined just a handful of Canucks who have made the leap to the club directly from the draft, including the recently departed Linden.
It wasn’t to be, however, as the young phenom announced he will be going back to the University of Michigan for his sophomore year.
It’s a good decision for everyone involved, with the possible exception of Canucks fans.
There was the possibility that, were Hughes to sign an entry level deal, he would end up spending some of his time in Utica of the American Hockey League. That wouldn’t have been ideal for anyone, but the reality was that if he were to make the jump to the NHL right away, he likely wouldn’t have gotten big minutes with the Canucks.
And the Canucks, knowing he wasn’t getting enough time each night, would have had to think about sending him down to Utica.
If Hughes wasn’t going to play at the highest level, there was never a point in burning a year of his entry-level deal.
The Canucks already have more defencemen than they can handle at the moment, with eight rearguards on one-way contracts, and Hughes, as a minor-league eligible player, wouldn’t have to go through waivers in order to be sent down to the AHL.
It’s also probably better for Hughes to spend another year in a familiar environment dominating his peers in college before he makes the step to the NHL.
His brother Jack, the consensus number one pick in the upcoming 2019 draft (which will be held in Vancouver), hasn’t committed to a school yet, but it’s possible he could sign on to Michigan, creating an even better atmosphere for Quinn.
The older Hughes would also benefit from adding a few pounds to his 5’10, 170-pound frame before he takes on massive NHL forecheckers.
Yes, it’s a little unfortunate for Canucks fans in that they won’t be able to watch Hughes skate circles around NHLers (he’s already a better skater than three-quarters of the league), but most would agree that it’s better for both the club and player in the long run.
Besides, hockey fans in this town will almost definitely have the chance to see Hughes suit up at the 2019 World Junior Championships, held in Vancouver and Victoria.
It’s a relative certainty that the Canucks’ prospect will be counted on to lead the U.S. at the tournament.
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