For teams already out of playoff contention (and even some that may still be holding on), the 2021 Entry Draft is the next beacon of shining light in the darkness that has been this season. It offers a chance to add talent and excitement to the organization, to continue or kickstart a rebuild, or to supplement an underperforming lineup. Owen Power, the 6’5″ University of Michigan defender was the consensus top choice in Bob McKenzie’s mid-season rankings for TSN, but there’s a familiar hockey name just a few spots down.
Luke Hughes, the younger brother of Vancouver Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes and New Jersey Devils center Jack Hughes was ranked fifth in McKenzie’s list, which is compiled by polling active scouts around the league. Unfortunately, Hughes won’t be able to show what he can do at the upcoming U18 World Championships as he suffered a lacerated tendon in his foot during a game in March for the U.S. National Team Development Program. He needed surgery to repair it, a tough break for a player looking to impress as many scouts as possible ahead of his draft.
Sometimes prospects that suffer late-season injuries end up sliding considerably on draft day, but that isn’t expected to happen with the 17-year-old defenseman. Hughes will begin skating next month according to Mike Morreale of NHL.com, and the director of NHL Central Scouting Dan Marr believes he has already played in enough games this season to prove he should be a top selection.
Coincidentally, Hughes is planning on joining Power at Michigan next season (should the latter stay for a sophomore year), following his brother Quinn who played two seasons of college hockey for the Wolverines before bursting onto the NHL scene in 2019. Unlike Quinn though, Luke isn’t just an undersized puck-carrier. The younger Hughes already stands 6’2″ and seems to keep growing every time he steps on the ice, with a frame that looks like it will fill out to make him an imposing physical presence as well as an elite skater like his brothers. While his offensive upside may not be quite as high as his brother, teams should be excited about getting a chance to add him near the top of June’s draft and feel comfortable that he’ll be healthy enough to have a full offseason of training.