With the University of Michigan getting eliminated from the first round of the Big 10 Tournament Saturday in a best-of-three series with the University of Minnesota, the Vancouver Canucks are suddenly hoping to see the next phase of the future arrive as their 2018 first-round pick Quinn Hughes, the seventh-overall pick, is now free to sign with the team.
Sportsnet’s Rick Dhaliwal reports that Hughes will talk things over with his parents and coaches before deciding on whether he will turn pro with tomorrow likely having more clarity on his future. Canucks’ general manager Jim Benning said the team will do everything they can to bring him aboard.
“We’ll get right on it,” Benning said (via Postmedia’s Ben Kuzma). “We wanted him to concentrate on the weekend and his team, and we’ll contact the adviser and family and see what their intentions are and go from there.”
While there is no guarantee that Hughes will sign with Vancouver, many reports over the past few months suggest that the 19-year-old blueliner is ready to come to the NHL and with Vancouver’s issues on defense, it’s possible that if he signs quickly, he could be playing for the Canucks as early as Wednesday.
Of course a debut will also depend on Hughes health as well. The defenseman blocked a shot late in Friday’s playoff opener and played injured in Saturday’s game. While there is no word on the severity of the injury, he received x-rays and still played, but finished the game with a minus-2 rating. The injury could prevent him from making a quick debut, assuming he signs, as the team would probably prefer to debut him when he is fully healthy considering that Vancouver has fallen far behind for a potential playoff spot and likely has little to play for. Regardless, Hughes is considered to be one of the top prospects in the NHL, who led Team USA to a silver medal in the World Junior Championships and five goals and 33 points in 32 games with Michigan. A top skater, Hughes should provide Vancouver with a top-notch all-around defender, who should finally give the Canucks a quarterback to their power play and an defenseman that can generate some offense. Currently, the team’s top offensive threat is Alexander Edler, who has seven goals and 22 points.
Coincidentally, Vancouver has the potential to add a second player with Michigan’s loss as the team could get Hughes’ teammate William Lockwood, the team’s third-round pick from 2016. Lockwood, a junior, had a breakout season as he posted 16 goals this year with the Wolverines. He tallied eight goals as a freshman and just four in an injury-marred sophomore year. One other significant name that could also be signed away is Josh Norris, the key prospect that the Ottawa Senators acquired in the Erik Karlsson trade this summer. Norris, the 19th overall pick in the 2017 draft, scored 10 goals and 19 points in his sophomore season.