After the Vancouver Canucks selected defenseman Quinn Hughes out of the University of Michigan with the seventh overall pick last year, they nearly convinced the freshman phenom to leave school and sign right away. Instead, Hughes opted to return for his sophomore campaign and is again lightning up the score sheet for the Wolverines. Fortunately, the Canucks don’t have to worry about Hughes staying in the college ranks for much longer, as the stud prospect confirmed to Sportsnet that he plans to sign his entry-level contract with Vancouver when the season is over.
Of course, the season that Hughes is referring to is the college season, which at the latest ends with the National Championship game on April 13, but is cut short for non-tournament teams before the end of March. Michigan is currently ranked outside of the top 20 in the NCAA at the midway point of the college season, but it is not outside the realm of possibility that the team could push for a spot in the NCAA tournament. A Big Ten Conference Tournament win or a final ranking within the top ten or twelve teams in the nation would earn the Wolverines a spot in the 16-team postseason. Last year, Michigan took that opportunity and ran with it, earning a spot in the Frozen Four. They could do so again, leaving Vancouver without much of an opportunity to get Hughes signed and into game action, but it does seem right now that Hughes’ final season in college is more likely to end in March. He would then be likely to make his NHL debut this season.
For his part, Canucks GM Jim Benning recently stated that he feels Hughes could help the team right away. Hughes has 20 points in 17 games so far this season, currently leading all Michigan skaters in points – including fellow first-round pick Josh Norris – and trailing only Harvard’s Adam Fox, Quinnipiac’s Chase Priskie, and UMass’ Cale Makar in points-per-game among NCAA defenseman. Hughes will also be a star for Team USA and the World Juniors later this month, where he will again get a chance to shine against top cometition as he prepares for the jump to the NHL. An elite puck mover with a pro-ready eye for making plays, one of Hughes’ goals in returning to school was to get stronger, which he feels he has accomplished. Hughes told Sportsnet that he is confident in his abilities and in his chances of making a successful transition to the pros. Vancouver fans may not have much to root for right now in another difficult season, but the talent of their young players is certainly a bright spot and Hughes’ commitment to joining the team, continued improvement, and confidence in his own ability should make the Cancucks and their supporters very excited.