Draft Prospect Profile: Quintin Hughes


Each day over the next month leading up to the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, held on June 22 in Dallas, we will be taking a look at the top 31 prospects available, starting with the 31st and leading up to number one.

Next in the series of prospect profiles is our 6th-ranked prospect, defenseman Quintin Hughes.

Quintin Hughes
2017–18 Team: Michigan (NCAA)
Date of Birth: October 14, 1999
Place of Birth: Orlando, FL
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 173 lbs
Shoots: Left
Position: D

NHL Central Scouting Final Ranking: 6
NHL Central Scouting Midterm Ranking: 4

NHL Comparable: Kris Letang

While not as complete a package as projected first overall pick Rasmus Dahlin, Quintin Hughes is as good a consolation prize as they come for teams looking for an elite offensive defenseman. Hughes is the very essence of what it means to be a mobile defenseman, and, in combination with his high-end puck skills, he will become a lethal offensive blue liner for years to come.

The first thing that stands out about Hughes is his world-class skating ability. From speed to acceleration, edge work to transitions and agility to balance, Hughes truly has it all in terms of skating. Hughes’ acceleration and speed allow him to open huge gaps of separation very quickly with the puck. He enjoys gliding behind his net to bait forecheckers to chase him, which he uses to his advantage. By the time the forechecker gets around the net, Hughes is already at the hash marks flying at full speed. By the time Hughes gets to the neutral zone, his afterburners are in full swing. When Hughes gets going, there’s no way for defenders to keep up. Hughes uses his agility and edge work to weave through the opposition with ease. His skating also allows him to be a highly effective power play quarterback with the ability to roam the top of the offensive zone while on the man advantage. Hughes uses this ability to get penalty killers to slide to him, opening up space for Hughes’ teammates.

Another elite aspect of Hughes’ game is his playmaking ability. His speed open the door for many scoring chances, but with top-end vision and puck skills, Hughes is able to capitalize on those chances. He has amazing vision and can find a teammate and have the puck on their stick with the blink of an eye with little space. While Hughes loves pushing the pace in the offensive end, he is perfectly willing to wait out defenders to create space and wait for plays to develop as well. Hughes is very good at drawing players to himself. His hockey sense ad smarts allow him to bring defenders exactly where he wants them so he can dissect the defense. Hughes has no issues making high-difficulty passes and often finds himself on the score sheet as a result. Hughes racked up 24 assists this season as a freshman at Michigan.

While not necessarily a shoot-first type of player, Hughes possesses a very good wrist shot, which he gets off very quickly with decent power and accuracy. Hughes could probably stand to shoot the puck more, but his excellent playmaking ability makes up for that. Hughes also has a good enough slap shot to be a respectable threat from the point, albeit not an overpowering shot.

Hughes is very much an offensive defenseman, but his defensive game is not bad by any means. He uses his elite skating to shut down gaps and cover attacking players. His awareness helps him identify threats and then reacts with his skating. Hughes sometimes has issues clearing the front of the net and winning board battles because of his relatively small frame. He will need to get stronger to become a more effective defender, especially when transitioning to the NHL. His skating really helps him, but that will not be enough for him to shut down the opposition’s biggest and best players. Hughes is among the best players in the draft class at transitioning play from defense to offense thanks to his blazing speed.

Overall, Hughes has arguably the best skating in the draft, a luxury especially as a defenseman. His silky smooth skating makes him an elite offensive weapon, even when he transitions to the pro game. He still has some work to do defensively and needs to add a lot of muscle, but given he is able to do so, Hughes should be a household name in the NHL for the foreseeable future.

Implications for the Blackhawks
Hughes very well could be off the board when the Blackhawks are on the clock with the eighth pick. Even just a couple of months ago, some felt Hughes would likely go more around pick 10, but with a strong showing at the World Championships, his draft stock rebounded to being a potential top-five pick. If available at the eighth pick, Hughes would look amazing on the Hawks’ blue line for the next 15 years. He has the world-class skating the current defensive core is lacking, outside of a declining Duncan Keith. Hughes would be an invigorating player who would fit right in with the Blackhawks’ system. While he would need to earn the trust of head coach Joel Quenneville defensively, he has the motivation and desire needed to do so. Hughes is a competitor and wants to succeed, and being in Chicago would certainly give him the opportunity to do so. A future top pairing of Hughes and Jokiharju would be quite a treat for Hawks fans for the long-term future. Additionally, it sounded like Hughes and Patrick Kane really enjoyed playing together and getting to know each other at the World Championships. They sat next to each other in the locker room and had nothing but good things to say about each other. It is not unreasonable to think Kane probably put in a good word to the scouting team.

Hughes will likely be headed back to Michigan for at least one more year before making the jump to the NHL. Do not expect Hughes in an NHL sweater until 2019–20.

While he will need to improve in his own end, there is no reason to think Hughes will become anything less than a top-pairing defender, with the ability to become one of the best in the game. Even if Hughes is not able to become a steady top-pairing defender, he should have no problem being a top-four defender with high-end offensive ability. Hughes is a special player.

What others are saying
“Smooth-skating offensive defenseman with superior command of his puck control and distribution, Hughes is the very best of a talented group of American draft-eligible rearguards. Raised and nurtured within a deeply-rooted hockey family, the current freshman at Michigan is one of the NCAA’s top newcomers and became an instant go-to option on a team loaded with NHL prospects and quality upperclassmen. The first thing you notice about Hughes is his calmness with the puck — he rarely, if ever, gets frazzled or frustrated in the face of a relentless or physical opponent. His ability to maintain control of the puck under harrowing circumstances is excellent, but it’s the plays he makes immediately after eluding pressure that sets him apart from the significant majority of not only his draft peers, but all defensemen in college hockey.”
Steve Kournianos/The Draft Analyst

“Hughes is an outstanding skater. He looks like he is floating above the ice. He has very good speed and acceleration in both directions. Hughes has a textbook stride, and the ability to change directions on a dime. He uses the outstanding speed to join the rush or to pinch in at the line. Hughes is rarely caught deep as he can still get back into position defensively thanks to that speed. His agility and footwork allow him to beat defenders one-on-one as well as to walk the line and make quick moves to open up passing and shooting lanes. Hughes has a low center of gravity which helps his balance and makes him strong on the puck. Hughes has excellent vision and playmaking ability, as well as the hockey sense to almost always make the right play. He seems to think the game and anticipate plays better than others out there on the ice. With his skating and stickhandling ability, Hughes is not afraid to skate the puck out of his zone or lead the rush. He can also make a long pass to start the transition game and start an odd-man rush. He has the passing ability and the hockey IQ to quarterback the play from the point. Hughes has the poise to make plays under pressure.”
Ben Kerr/Last Word on Hockey

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