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Photo Credit: University of Michigan

CANUCKSARMY’S 2018 NHL DRAFT RANKINGS: #4 Quinn Hughes

Let me be clear: there is nothing I am more sick and tired of hearing about than a player’s height. It’s exhausting, it’s boring, and in most cases, it’s largely irrelevant. Thirty defencemen scored 40 points or more in the NHL last season. 9 were less than six feet tall. Three were less than 5’10”. Forty-five defenders 5’11” or under played an NHL game this season. You can count some of them, like Shayne Gostisbehere, Tyson Barrie, Ryan Ellis, and Jared Spurgeon, as among the best in the game.

And yet every year, the scouting community is inundated with “smurf” comments from a dedicated group of the dumbest people online. Every year, players with no serious deficiencies in their game are still assumed to be inferior because of what often amounts to a difference of less than an inch.

In most cases, height amounts to little more than an aesthetic preference. But hockey is a skills competition, not a beauty contest. It’s less meaningful as a physical input than wingspan, centre of gravity, stride, VO2 max and a whole host of other things that are rarely mentioned. If you can’t actually point out an area of the game where a player’s small stature is costing him, then it doesn’t matter.

Quinn Hughes isn’t a big player, but if you saw him on the street, you wouldn’t look twice at him. Most outlets have him listed at 5’10” – literally the average height for a North American male. I can’t believe this is even a talking point.

Big, hulking, crease-clearing defenders are going the way of the dinosaur for one simple reason: if a defenceman has to clear the crease, he’s already failed to do 95% of his job. That 95%- skating, rushing, passing, transitioning, breaking up plays, etc. – is where Quinn Hughes excels.

If Muggsy Bogues can have a 14-year career in the NBA, you bet Quinn Hughes can be an NHLer. And a damn good one, too. In every meaningful area of the game, he stands apart from every defenceman in this year’s draft not named Rasmus Dahlin. He clocks in at #4 on our yearly rankings.

Bio

  • Age/Birthdate: 17.92/ October 14, 1999
  • Birthplace: Orlando, FL, USA
  • Frame: 5’10” / 174 lbs
  • Position: D
  • Handedness: L
  • Draft Year Team: University of Michigan (NCAA)
  • Accomplishments/Awards:

Stats

Career

2017-18 Season

GP G A P SEAL INV% 5v5 Pr INV% 5v5 eP160 Sh/Gp Sh% GF% GF%rel GD60rel XLS% XPR xVAL
37 5 24 29 1.22 23.2% 14% 1.09 2.51 5% 61.4% 7.4% 0.9 33% 31.8 3.4

Adjusted Scoring (SEAL)

Team Relative

Cohort Based

Our Take

I’ve been following Hughes for two years now and I feel comfortable saying that Quinn Hughes is one of the smoothest, most effortless skaters I’ve ever seen… at any level. When we talk about skating, there are a number of different elements we look at: top speed, acceleration, edgework, etc. Hughes has it all. Watching Hughes rush the puck up the ice is a sight to behold. He consistently uses his superior skating ability to create separation between him and his opponents. His edge control is so vastly superior to most of his peers that he is able to quickly turn or pivot and end up two or three strides ahead of a pressuring attacker.

Offensively, Hughes has a high-end and diverse set of skills. He’s creative and dynamic with the puck, pulling off moves even most forwards couldn’t dream up, let alone execute. His two-step quickness and deceptiveness allow him to catch opponents flat-footed, and he has the hands to keep the puck moving as fast as his feet. His outlet passes are crisp and clean, which makes him a potent weapon on the breakout when paired with his ability to rush the puck on his own. His shot doesn’t have much pop, but he more than makes up for this by thinking the game two or three steps ahead of his peers. Unlike most defenders, Hughes prefers to shoot mostly when there’s a chance to score. Otherwise, he’d rather get the puck to a teammate in a high-danger area. In the attacking zone, Hughes doesn’t make the right play. He makes the better play.

Hughes’ confidence in his skating ability is a bit of a double-edged sword. In most instances, it makes him a threat to create offence out of nothing. The downside to this is that sometimes he can be too confident and skate the puck into an area he can’t safely get out of. As a result, he turns the puck over a lot. That’s something you accept from a player with his skill set, but if he could just tweak his decision-making by about 5-10% and learn when to make the safe play he’ll shed the “risky” label.

Some people might look at Hughes’ small stature and reputation as a dynamic offensive player and assume he has deficiencies on the defensive side of the game. They would be wrong. While his occasional turnovers make him riskier in the neutral zone than his peers and his small frame can result in struggles to win puck battles at times, Hughes’ defending is excellent. His speed makes him a tenacious and dedicated backchecker, and he has an active stick which he uses to break up passing plays. As you might expect, his speed and puck skills also mean that once he regains possession, the puck doesn’t stay in his own zone for long.

Interestingly, pGPS doesn’t shine as positive of a light on Hughes as it does some of the other defenders in the 2018 class. He carries an expected success percentage of just 33%. There are a few reasons for this. First, most of Hughes’ season was so good most of his matches barely meet the similarity threshold. Draft-year players are still a rarity in the NCAA, and many of his matches played there before it was the breeding ground for NHL talent it is today. It’s also important to consider that Hughes’ numbers at the college level were better than all his matches, and his height does him a bit of a disservice, too. In this case, we have to look outside the confines of the model. Hughes had a better freshman season than Zach Werenski did in his draft year, and he’s turned out to be one of the league’s best young defenders.

When looking at Hughes’ situation, era, age, and league (SEAL) adjusted scoring, we get a better impression of how strong a season he had. Of this year’s crop of defencemen, only Rasmus Dahlin and Evan Bouchard had a higher SEAL-adjusted scoring rate.

Any concerns about Hughes’ ability to translate to the pro game should be assuaged by his stand out play against some of the best players in professional hockey, where Hughes ranked third overall in pass efficiency.

When looking at the body of work, Hughes has separated himself from the pack. Outside of the obvious choice at first overall, Hughes is the defenceman with the best chance at being a truly special talent. If there’s any justice in this world, he’ll be the first player at that position to hear his name called after Rasmus Dahlin on draft day.

Further Reading

Consolidated Average Future Considerations Hockey Prospect.com ISS Hockey McKeen’s The Athletic TSN Bob McKenzie TSN Craig Button The Hockey News Sportsnet ESPN Dobber Prospects
6 6.2 6 7 7 4 $$ 6 12 6 9 5 3

 

From Cam Robinson, Dobber Prospects:

A consummate playmaker who boasts the elite speed needed to thrive at his stature. The youngest player in the NCAA this season, his confidence continued to build all season long. He was tremendous for Michigan down the stretch and looked more than capable at the World Championships. The best skater in this class and a one-man breakout machine. He can run a power play with the best of them. Needs some more pop on his shot.

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CanucksArmy’s 2018 NHL Draft Rankings

#5 Oliver Wahlstrom #6 Jesperi Kotkaniemi #7 EVAN BOUCHARD
#8 TY SMITH #9 BRADY TKACHUK #10 ADAM BOQVIST
#11 ISAC LUNDESTROM #12 NOAH DOBSON #13 JOSEPH VELENO
#14 JOEL FARABEE #15 AKIL THOMAS #16 RYAN MERKLEY
#17 BARRETT HAYTON #18 RASMUS KUPARI #19 RYAN MCLEOD
#20 JONATAN BERGGREN #21 VITALI KRAVTSOV #22 ALEXANDER ALEXEYEV
#23 CALEN ADDISON #24 DOMINIK BOKK #25 SERRON NOEL
#26 MARTIN KAUT #27 DAVID GUSTAFSSON #28 JAKE WISE
#29 BODE WILDE #30 RASMUS SANDIN #31 COLE FONSTAD
#32 JETT WOO #33 ALLAN MCSHANE #34 K’ANDRE MILLER
#35 JACOB OLOFSSON #36 NATHAN DUNKLEY #37 NILS LUNDKVIST
#38 JONATHAN GRUDEN #39 FILIP HALLANDER #40 JARED MCISAAC
#41 NICOLAS BEAUDIN #42 JACK MCBAIN #43 TY DELLANDREA
#44 JESSE YLONEN #45 MATTIAS SAMUELSSON #46 JONNY TYCHONICK
#47 NIKLAS NORDGREN #48 AIDAN DUDAS #49 GRIGORI DENISENKO
#50 KYLE TOPPING #51 BLADE JENKINS #52 SEAN DURZI
#53 JACK DRURY #54 JAKUB LAUKO #55 JACOB RAGNARSSON
#56 ANDERSON MACDONALD #57 ADAM GINNING #58 FILIP KRAL
#59 ALBIN ERIKSSON # 60 ADAM SAMUELSSON #61 CAMERON HILLIS
#62 PHILIPP KURASHEV #63 BLAKE MCLAUGHLIN #64 MARCUS WESTFELT
#65 MILOS ROMAN #66 OSKAR BACK #67 GABRIEL FORTIER
#68 RILEY SUTTER #69 YEGOR SOKOLOV #70 ALEXANDER KHOVANOV
#71 CURTIS DOUGLAS #72 BENOIT-OLIVIER GROULX #73 SAMPO RANTA
#74 MARCUS KARLBERG #75 AXEL ANDERSSON #76 DAVID LILJA
#77 KODY CLARK #78 DMITRY ZAVGORODNY #79 LINUS NYMAN
#80 LIAM FOUDY #81 LINUS KARLSSON #82 JACHYM KONDELIK
#83 SCOTT PERNOVICH #84 G JAKUB SKAREK #85 TY EMBERSON
#86 JAY O’BRIEN #87 CARL WASSENIUS #88 VLADISLAV KOTKOV
#89 EMIL WESTERLUND #90 JERRY TURKULAINEN #91 STANISLAV DEMIN
#92 TYLER MADDEN #93 JAN JENIK #94 G OLIVIER RODRIGUE
#95 XAVIER BERNARD #96 KRISTIAN TANUS #97 LUKAS WERNBLOM
#98 NANDO EGGENBERGER #99 MATTHEW STRUTHERS #100 SHAWN BOURDIAS

 

    • Dirk22

      according to Bob McKenzie there’s a chance…if Tkachuk, Kotkaniemi and Dobson all go along beforehand with the top 3 guys – he was putting it out there that this is semi realistic.

      I’d be shocked but dare to dream.

      At least we have the ‘winning culture’ now though.

    • TD

      Don’t rely on CA for the order this draft will go. I’m not saying they are wrong, but rather every scout and list has a different order. The Hockey Writers did a mock draft where the Canucks picked Hughes at 7. And lots of players that could have gone higher were still on the board. CA puts Hughes at 4, but you can see from the consensus ranking list that he is ranked from 3 – 12.

      • Defenceman Factory

        CA has never once indicated their rankings were predictive of how the draft will go and have explicitly said multiple times that is not their intent. They have ranked the prospects and I think done an excellent job of providing the rationale for that ranking.

        Lots of room for debate and I don’t agree with how they have ranked some players but I haven’t seen anywhere a better source of free information on the players available.

    • Last year guaranteed top-5 pick Gabe Vilardi fell to 12 and a guy many were talking about as a potential 1st-overall at the start of that season in Timothy Liljegren fell all the way to 17th. Plus lets not forget when both Vancouver and Carolina passed on William Nylander and Nick Ehlers, and they fell to 8th and 9th respectively.

      Not saying Hughes will be there at 7, or that the Canucks will pick him even if he is, but it is a totally realistic possibility.

  • Kootenaydude

    I know that the NHL is going to a much softer game. Hard checks are frowned upon. If you throw a legal hard check. The whole opposing team tries to jump you. I get to watch WHL games on a regular basis and numbers are down because it’s just not that entertaining. A lot of unmotivated entitled rich kids on our team lately it seems. Your comment reminds me of Merkely stating that his teammates don’t hate him. Yes we have seen the size of players get smaller as the game gets softer. When you do a projection of a young defenceman chances of making the NHL. Does size play part of the projection? Analytic wise. Not personal opinion.

  • Spiel

    I believe you that height is not an important input when evaluating skill and that skill trumps size.
    But, your first paragraph is not persuasive in arguing your thesis that height doesn’t matter. According to your numbers, 90% of 40 pts scorers are over 5’10, 70% are 6’0 or taller. 45 out of 306 defenseman who played a single game were under 6’0 tall. That means 261 of those players or 85% were 6’0 or taller. 162 (53%) of those defenseman who played a single game were 6’2 or taller.
    Although 5’10 is the average height of a North American male, it is pretty clearly not the average height of an NHL defender.
    Is this because bigger, stronger, players tend to be better at hockey when all else is equal?

  • bobdaley44

    Disagree about the size comment. Top point getters may have been smaller but where were they come playoff time? Look at the finalists and you can see not a smurf amongst both D corps. Stetcher, Pouliot and Hughes down low? Teams would have their way.

  • I also disagree with the author’s conclusion regarding size.

    – The Muggsy Bogues reference is terrible. Just because one exceptional individual denied the odds does not mean other people in similar circumstances will equally thrive. It means that Hughes will need to be exceptional in other areas in order to make up the deficiency. Can the author point out other 5′ 3″ NBA players?

    – If defender needs to clear the crease, he hasn’t done 95% of his job. That’s laughable, that’s a product of both team’s play. You’ll always have opposition possession in the defensive zone that will result in forwards posting up in front of the net. But imagine…if you have Sutter winning defensive draws so Hughes can clear the zone, you wouldn’t have that situation but apparently winning face-offs don’t count on Canucks Army.

    – Do you even watch the games? How about Virtanen muscling by Krug on the rush? Chara manhandling Baertschi on board battles? Troy Stecher struggling against bigger opponents? How about going back when Hanzal was a Coyote and how he singlehandedly destroyed the entire Canucks team?

    Size mismatches happen. An astute coach will exploit that when the situation arises. You can’t ignore a player’s weakness to promote other narratives.

      • Dirk22

        Ah the ‘watch the game’ crowd is out in full force making judgments on a player without ever having y’know…..watched him play. They just rely on their own fancy stats like height.

        • I have watched Hughes play. I was impressed by his play based on what I’ve seen in the NCAA (Youtube clips), WJC and WC (TV and Youtube clips). He’s going to be a great player. But you can’t tell me that you can simply dismiss his height and say it’s not a factor. Some of the elite players are huge – guys like Benn and Getzlaf are over 6’3″ and 210+ lbs.

          The article is so blatantly biased, you get hyperbolic phrases like “If there’s any justice in this world, he’ll be the first player at that position to hear his name called after Rasmus Dahlin on draft day.” If I want justice, I’d be reading John Rawls.

          • Dirk22

            It’s biased? It’s literally a consensus ranking based on what the authors think and he’s the fourth ranked prospect. Of course the article is going to be biased! When you’re ranked 4th it means they like you as a hockey player.

            BTW – I’m sure your ‘analysis’ of Hughes based on your viewings would take up less space than this sentence. Your ‘bias’ on the other hand towards a shorter player is readily apparent. Not sure why you’d be so put off by this player otherwise?! If there was a player as good as Hughes that was 6″3 than that would be a different issue. Many feel that he’s that good though in comparison to Bouchard and Dobson.

            Bottom line is the Canucks will be extremely lucky to draft him as it’s very unlikely he’ll fall to 7.

          • The best player of this past generation was under 6′ and 200lbs. The best player of the up-and-coming generation is just over 6′ and is also under 200lbs.

            Size is but one factor among many, and should only be the deciding factor when all others are equal. Ryan Getzlaf’s a great player, but I’ll take Sidney Crosby any day of the week in a head-to-head matchup.

          • TD

            Dirk, it’s not the ranking that’s biased, it’s the article. These articles for the most part have been objectively written, but this article is not objective at all. That has nothing to do with Hughes as a prospect or where he should be ranked and only has to do with the manner in which this article was written.

          • Dirk22

            I feel like I’m on a different planet here. Biased towards what? Is the Dahlin article biased? The Wahlstrom article? Every guy in the top 10 had a gushing review. What is the issue here? They think he’s good. Most scouts think he’s good. He’s slated to go really high. If you have an issue with that because he’s 5’10 that’s fine but to claim a ranking article is biased towards a player is a laughable claim. It’s like if I was ranking the top 100 chocolate bars, had a kit kat at #4, gushed about the amazingness of the breakaway feature, and then was accused of being biased towards kit kats….well ya I like them.

          • TD

            Did you read the article. It started with a rant. None of the other articles did. None of the other articles had lines like “if there’s any justice in the world…”. Hughes looks like a great prospect, but this article was not objectively written like the other articles have been.

    • Ser Jaime Lannister

      Great post forver2925 this is 100% accurate.

      I think i heard JD compare him to Jared Spurgeon, thats a nice comparison but for Jared Spurgeon to have the success look who hes been paired up with…Ryan Suter. Take Suter away and look what happened in the playoffs…Jared Spurgeon was useless, couldnt defend against the larger jets and they exploited him.

      I watched the WJHC and when skating against nhl players he skated well, but i wasnt impressed with his “elite skating” specially on the larger ice surface where it benefits smaller/faster players, i was hoping for more. A big weakness is his shot, its not even close to being nhl ready, and watching him start on the first PP then moved to the second PP i can see why, makes it easy for teams to defend against because they dont have to focus in on the point and are able to cheat and protect the guys in the slot.

      Jackson was he on the PK in Michigan as well? and what were the stats on that? I have a hard time seeing somebody that small being effective trying to box guys out, sure he can have an active stick thats nice, but try breaking up the cycle game or pinning guys up on the boards, probably not strong enough.

      IMO not enough upside to take him this early not even close. I can see some some of the similarities with Spurgeon and Werenzki, but again for those guys to have success look who they are paired with Suter and Jones.

      Hope Canucks can snag someone like Dobson, someone whos great at both ends of the ice and wont be a liability, with him Juolevi being able to anchor down top pair/top4 you can gamble in the later rounds with these smaller offensive players because they will have someone to compliment them.

    • Bud Poile

      The best d-man of my lifetime was Orr. He was 5’11” and 170 lbs. in his rookie season. Elite skill trumps size.
      The Canucks scouting dept. is now competent/relevant and they will determine BPA.
      Enjoy the draft.

  • TD

    I had a hard time taking this article seriously because it was written from such a position of bias. Hughes is obviously a great talent and if that had been pointed out in an objective manner then the article would have had more of an impact. It read like a spoiled child having a tantrum trying to prove his point, not objective statistical analysis proving why Hughes is a bona fide star and how his total package will easily overcome any issues that could arise because of his size.

  • Burnabybob

    Hughes could potentially fall to the Canucks. Most scouting services aren’t as high on him as canucksarmy is. NHL.com has him ranked sixth out of NA skaters.

  • canesfan98

    Lots of issues with this article. I think that Hughes might be a good player, but not 4OA good.

    Wingspan is important, but height isn’t? I’m fairly certain that wingspan and height are closely correlated. Stride too, bigger strides usually come from taller people.

    If a defender has to clear his crease, he has failed at 95% of his job? Is every defensman a failure now?

    If height doesn’t matter, then why is it an important part of the cohort system? Speaking of that, his XLS% is low because he had a good season? Not really following the logic here. Good seasons would normally boost the XLS rating.

    I get that you like Quinn Hughes, but please at least make sense if you’re going to make a statement like “in most cases, (height is) largely irrelevant”.

    • Kneedroptalbot

      This is a sure lock how the top 4 go:
      1. Buff, Dahlin (#1 D-man)
      2. Caro, Svenekov (top elite scorer in this draft)
      3. Mont, Kotkaniemi (desperate for a Centre)
      4. Ott, Zadina (elite scorer)
      5. Arizona,
      6. Detroit,
      Nucks at #7….. (who will go at #5 and #6??)
      I think Wahlstrom will be one of them, that leaves us with these choices:
      A. Bouchard (d-man)
      B. Tkachuk (fwd)
      C. Hughes (d-man)
      D. Boqvist (d-man)
      E. Dobson (d-man)

      • Giant-Nation

        Detroit scouting not high on Hughes in their hole anymore…an elite puck transporter that has no clue how to play a pro defensive game based on his USHL games. He’s very smart and has a huge offensive upside but his d/side does not look like it translates as a top pick 5 NHL pick. I think another risky pick is Boquivist with 2 concussions….if Canucks get Wally Dobs or Butch they are in good stead.

  • Mindset Expert

    At the end of the day, the best team wins. And the key to winning is knowing that your players can win – that there is no place they’d rather be than on the NHL ice, and noone they would rather be than Stanley Cup Champions. Size, height, speech impediments, all can be overcome with the proper mindset.

  • kermit

    He has unique skills, like Cale Makar last year. He should go high. I would prefer Bouchard or Dobson, but JB gambled last year and it looks like it’s going to pay off.

  • truthseeker

    My issues with him as a pick have pretty much nothing to do with size. I don’t care about it at all.

    My issues are that this is another example of a player ranked here that when I look at the basic numbers as far back as they go I don’t see a kid who’s ever really dominated at any one level. If he’s that good then in midget he should have been a dominant more than point per game player for example. To me that’s what top ten picks do…You look at their history and see some shocking numbers somewhere along the line. None here.

    Having said that, the numbers in that one development program year are very impressive. Not Bouchard impressive but for sure that makes me think more highly of him.

    So again there is a lot of talk of “potential” with regards to his offense. The article did well to address some of the concerns about D awareness with the “skating into trouble” thing. Not a huge deal with me as that can probably be dealt with easily enough.

    But in the end what I see is a lot of hype around the fact the kid is an excellent skater. Dances around the ice amazingly well. OK…that’s great, but if it doesn’t add up to offensive dominance then what’s the point? His offense seems very good to me, but not eye popping.

    This obsession with speed is a bit strange. Seems like it’s being placed ahead of finishing skill these days in terms of importance. But speed and skating without finish are just that. Speed and skating. Again…just so the people who struggle with reading comprehension don’t get their panties in a bunch…this is a general indictment. I know Hughes does score pretty well.

    To me he falls into the idea that if the canucks think he’s better than Bouchard or Dobson then fine….I’ll trust their judgement as they know more about this stuff than I do. And really he’s obviously a very talented kid with good upside so I’d be happy with the canucks taking him. I’d just prefer to go with the guy (if available) who is more offensively impressive with actual numbers to show it.

  • black ace

    The 2 d men i want are Hughes and Dobson. Questions about Bouchards skating and Boqvist defensively are flags for me. i think Dobson and Hughes have just as much upside with lower downside.

    Also Craig Button has Hughes at 6 not 12 as the article says.