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Photo Credit: University of Michigan

WWYDW: What To Do With Quintin Hughes

Free agency has come and gone, which means news is slowing down as far as the home team is concerned. As a result, the question of Quinn Hughes’ future dominated the cycle this week. Our own Ryan Biech took a look at the Canucks’ options for Hughes next season yesterday, and he’s been a popular conversation topic on local radio this week.

The team has a few options. They can let him go back to college, where he’ll get big minutes in a leadership role for the University of Michigan. They can also sign him to an entry-level contract, which would allow him to play in both the AHL and the NHL. Where would you like to see Quinn Hughes next season?

Last week I asked: Which rookies do you think should make the team next season? Which should start the season in Utica?

ikillchicken:

All of them. Well okay, maybe not Hughes if we’re being realistic. But seriously, Gaudette is 22 and a great two-way player. Dahlen is 21 and has already played against men in Europe. Petterson is the best NHL affiliated prospect in the world not already in the NHL. Juolevi is now the *only* top 10 pick from his draft class not playing in the NHL. This is a league where players are increasingly breaking into the league as teenagers and playing their best hockey in their mid or even early 20s. There’s absolutely no explanation for any of these guys not making the team besides indefensible roster management. Trade whoever you can of Tanev, Del Zotto, Baertschi, Granlund, Gagner, and Leipsic. Bury whoever you can’t in the minors. If we must have a bunch of “grit” like Beagle and Roussel fine. But the roster is still rife with dead weight and mediocre tweeners. Clear it all out and ice a roster with 4+ rookies. There will still be plenty of competition for actual playing time from more established youngsters like Gaunce, Goldobin, Virtanen and Boeser.

Billy Pilgrim:

The prospects start in Utica (including Hughes and Pettersson), with the understanding that if they had a good camp and perform well for the Comets that they will be given an opportunity as they come up as soon as possible. Then fill out the roster as injuries/trades occur. Starting lineup would be:
Baertschi Horvat Boeser
Eriksson Sutter Goldobin
Leipsic Beagle JV
Roussel Schaller Gagner
Granlund

Edler Tanev
MDZ Stetcher
Pouliot Gudbranson
Hutton Biega

If roster space is needed based on the prospect performances, work to trade Gagner and/or Granlund at forward and MDZ, Hutton and/or Pouliot before or by the deadline. If Petersson or Gaudette prove that they can be an effective 2C, consider a Sutter trade.

Rusty bucket:

Who they should have up with the big club, and who they will have are two different things. From the FA signing frenzy, I feel only EP will make the show, where everyone else will be in Utica.
In a world where GMJBTL didn’t load the NHL roster with vets, then Id have Gaudette, EP, Dahlen (if he shows he is ready).

truthseeker:

I’m going to make two assumptions. One, that they’ve had a camp good enough to make it to the NHL. And two, that roster space will be created if they prove themselves. (not likely) If those conditions existed then….

… as many of them as possible. EP for sure. Gaudette for sure. Hughes for sure. Demko for sure. Juolevi for sure. All of them, provided they don’t crash and burn in camp should get an extended look in the NHL right away.

I even think Jett Woo should be given a good long look if he seems like he can handle it.

Gino’s 3rd Cousin:

The only ones I would consider out of the gates at this point are Juolevi and Petterson. Slow cook the other rookies in Utica. If any show promise have them ready for injury callup. As much as I want to see him now, Hughes can do one more year of development in Michigan. I’m prepared for one to two more years of pain.

Goon:

All the rookies should remain in Utica for the full season. The Comets are headed for the top of the AHL standings, and the Canucks are virtually guaranteed another bottom-5 finish. Isn’t the justification for these terrible signings that the young players need to develop in a “winning environment”? The Comets are that. The Canucks are not.

  • apr

    I’d play him with Gudbrandson in the 3rd pair as Guddy had his best year playing with Campbell. Play him first PP with Boeser, EP, Horvat, and JV. I can’t wait to see this kid play.

    • Canuck70

      Sign Hughes. If Hughes and Juolevi show well at camp then play them this fall. Hughes with Tanev and Juolevi with Edler. Then the Canucks will have a good top 4 Defence. Let the rest of the defenceman compete for spots 5-7.
      Goldy with Bo and Boeser. Baertschi with Pettersen and Virtanen or Palmu. This gives Green two fast, skilled scoring lines. Let the remaining forwards compete for 3rd and fourth line spots. Coaching tip; always play your best players with each other. Trying to balance lines or D pairings by spreading out your talent does no good for anyone. Players hate it and fans get frustrated.

    • canuckfan

      Wow what a great idea I had never thought of this combination but with your analysis using Gubranson’s past experience with a player who is very much like Hughes. Seeing Hughes can also play on the right side he could also have time with Edler.

  • North Van Halen

    I’d sign him and start him in Utica with the rest of the kids. As the season wears on and attrition and/or trades take their course, I’d give him some games to get him used to the NHL pace. I’d be in no hurry to surpass the 9 game threshold unless he was blowing the doors off the AHL. Even then, there’s no hurry.
    This year and next should be about developing the young core. Having a bunch of them bond & grow in Utica certainly can’t hurt the process.
    The problem with this theory is I doubt Hughes signs to play a majority of the year in Utica, it’s more likely he goes back to Michigan which is fine too, but that’s what I’d try.

    • speering major

      Yeah I pretty much shared the same opinion the other day. If the Hughes camp was fine with playing this season in Utica I don’t think there would be any hesitation or decision to make right now. If the Canucks think he has a chance to play in the NHL this year, they would certainly be happy to have him in Utica as plan B.

      IMO from the Canucks POV sending him back to college is plan C. From the Hughes camp going to Utica is probably plan C. Otherwise I don’t see how there’s any delay or decisions to make.

  • ColdOne

    Michigan has a strong hockey program and is a good school. But given where Hughes was drafted, the degree won’t really be his future meal ticket (Rathbone at Harvard, by contrast, is a completely different story.) So, I’d rather see Hughes turn pro and develop under the eye of professional coaches with his future teammates in either the NHL or AHL depending how camp goes. Yeah, Hughes could build up some more strength, but Bobby Orr wasn’t much bigger than Hughes when he entered the league.

    • Bud Poile

      Orr had 102 PIM’s at 18 years of age.
      He would fight,defend himself and hack n’ whack.
      He played 7 NHL seasons with close to 100+ PIM’s.
      In his last year with Oshawa Orr averaged 2 penalty minutes.
      Orr had to defend himself in a violent game and did so handily.
      The Bruins were a very tough team to play against.
      Quinn Hughes is a bloody choirboy but the same type of idiots still play the NHL game and Quinton is not Bobby Orr.

      • Definitive proof you haven’t watched hockey in at least a decade.

        Fighting in the NHL has dropped by over 50% over the past decade, and adjusted for the number of teams and players in the league is dramatically lower than it was in the 1970s. Enforcers have virtually disappeared from the game. The kind of disgusting idiocy that was present in the game in the 70s, 80s, and 90s – the intentional headhunting, intentional knee-hunting, brutal trash that ended many careers (including, it’s worth noting, the career of BOBBY ORR) is not completely out of the game, but it’s an order of magnitude lower than it was in the past, and the game is better for it.

          • Bud Poile

            It had nothing to do with fighting or enforcers,Goon.
            Everybody ran at Orr to slow him down.
            He protected himself as best he could and he was willing to hit back with his body and fists when he was being targeted.
            The Canucks need a Dorsett or a Schaller as most of these guys have zero clue or abilities to defend themselves.

            Orr isn’t feeling sorry for himself.
            “It was the way I played,” he said. “I liked to carry the puck and if you do that, you’re going to get hit.
            “That’s the way it goes. I wish I’d played longer, but I don’t regret it. I had a style – when you play, you play all-out. I tried to do things. I didn’t want to sit back. I wanted to be involved.”
            He likes the fast-paced modern game, but is less thrilled with the increased importance of power plays and some aspects of the crackdown on obstruction fouls.
            “You can’t hold a guy up, you can’t protect your partner,” he said. “I agree that if there’s a one-on-one and one guy is faster and other guy is hooking and holding him, that’s a penalty, but some nights . .

            “It’s a tough game. You’ve got to let them battle.”

      • Bud Poile

        I watched Orr play as a rookie .
        To compare Quinn Hughes with R.G. Orr is not fair to Quinton-or any other exceptional 18 year old d-man,for that matter.
        Nobody has done what Orr could do-fight,hit,rove the ice and cover himself,control the puck and the game.
        Nobody.
        Quinton Choirboy,indeed.

  • If Hughes agrees, send him back to Michigan where he can finish another year of school, hit the gym, and dominate the NCAA with Lockwood. Focus on finding ice-time for Juolevi, if he shows he’s ready for the NHL. Definitely sign Hughes for 2019-2020, when you can figure out if Edler wants to resign on a team-friendly deal, JB and Green can figure out if Pouliot and Hutton are worth keeping, and you can let MDZ walk as a UFA. For now, we can pencil in rookie Hughes, a more experienced Juolevi, and a veteran like Edler as our 2019-2020 starting LHD with a other decent LHD as depth (e.g. Brisebois, McEneny, another Utica standout).

  • LAKID

    The question should be : What is Quinton Hughes going to do. Quinty is too small to play in the AHL,NHL and lucky if he could play in the KHL. Another great pick by the Doink twins!

  • Not to repeat myself from last week but…

    Give him a cup of coffee at the NHL and then send him down to Utica with Kole Lind, Adam Gaudette, Thatcher Demko, and possibly even Elias Petterson. Follow the Leafs’ example from 15-16 – stack your AHL team with potentially-elite young talent and let them wreck worlds while forming chemistry and personal bonds, and then bring them up as a group the following season.

    Hughes will get professional experience, make some money, and be given time to develop his game further in an environment that will be more forgiving of mistakes and more open to experimentation than an NHL roster, and the Comets will have a very good shot at the Calder. Then bring him (and the rest of that young crew) up in 2019 so he can take a run at the other Calder.

    • kermit

      I don’t have a strong opinion on this, so I’m not looking to get into a bun fight with anyone, but isn’t it better for the player to raise the bar on him. Michigan may be a good program, but so are the London Knights, and Juolevi stagnated there in his draft+1 year. He needed a new challenge to raise his game. The AHL, with spot NHL duty, would do that for Hughes, would it not.

  • Dirty30

    Sign him and play him in the NHL. If he needs a rest or some time to work on something then send him to the Comets.

    He is an intelligent, skilled and smooth skating player whose size is not an issue for his style of play.

    Troy from Richmond made the transition better than some of the big guys like Guddy so what’s the concern with Quinn?

      • IBT

        OMG that is way below the league average, of 6’1″ and 200lbs. How did he ever survive without Hughes skating abilities. No one smaller than him would every survive. Wait if that is the average there must be many players smaller than the average because we know there are many much bigger.

          • I just looked at the NHL stats and over the last 5 years, there have only been 35 rookies who were 5’10” and 175 lbs or less. Only 4 were defencemen, the other 31 were forwards. Only 2 of those D-men could be considered regulars and they were 19 (Samuel Girard) or 23 (Matt Grzelcyk). So it is quite exceptional to have an 18 year old rookie defenceman who is that small. So is it really that bad for one to suggest that Hughes improve his game and get stronger before effectively leading the blueline offence on an NHL team?

          • truthseeker

            Neither of those D men were top picks Forever. Is it really that bad to suggest a guy drafted in the top 10 who’s already played against men and was considered by many (though admittedly not me) the 2nd best D prospect in the draft, be given a shot to see what he can do in the NHL?

            Ryan Ellis came in at about the same and did just fine with a few bounces up and down to the AHL.

            And like his health wouldn’t be at risk in the AHL….lol Way more of a goon league than the bloody NHL.

          • I don’t think Hughes should play in the NHL next year. There are lots of good reasons to play him a season in the AHL before bringing him up. His size has absolutely nothing to do with it, and if you think a guy who is the size of a normal human being can’t succeed at the NHL level, you clearly haven’t been paying attention lately.

          • But Ellis was 20 when he started in the NHL. He aged out of junior so going pro was his only option. It’s a different track for Hughes who still has the option of honing his game for another 3 years at a great program that wants him back.

          • I don’t think it’s too conservative. After all, we can take Virtanen as another cautionary tale. In that case, we had a Top 10 draft pick who had the NHL body but not the NHL mind. We rushed him into the NHL and his confidence and development really suffered. Another difference is that the Calgary Hitmen was not a good development environment as I was reading how Virtanen was being pushed into the bottom 6 rather than being given more top 6 opportunities as he became more senior. If Virtanen had been playing for the London Knights, I would have said “heck yeah, back to junior you go”.

            Unlike Virtanen, we can put Hughes in the AHL but it’s just my opinion, I think the AHL and the NCAA are equally valuable development environments. Both play against other adult players who are legit NHL prospects. But I feel that the NCAA provides a good, albeit exclusive, stepping stone between the junior leagues and the professional leagues. Hit the gym, be a campus celebrity, get further in his degree, break some NCAA records, then sign the contract next year.

  • Rodeobill

    He is young, but by all accounts has a mature game and IQ, no trouble there. Also he has already dominated at the university level and seems to be poised to mentally develop more in another arena. He is smallish, but his game is reliant on other aspects of the game, so no trouble there, unless, you are worried about HIS safety, then, regardless of where he plays, hockey is a dangerous game and people get injured in any league he may play in next year, the NCAA and the AHL are also full of players willing to cross lines to make a name or get the job done too, it just so happens that the big team (much to the chagrin of many pundits and fans) has been designed with “protect and shelter the kids” in mind this off season, so, I can’t see this as a reason to keep him out either. We worry about his physical development too, but turning pro allows the team to work close with him day in and day out on all aspects with the best trainers/ nutritionists and support he could have without having to divide his efforts between development and grades, surrounded by an environment of team mates and professionals living that life already. I can’t see the argument that going back is better for his physical development.

    So, I sympathize with all views in the matter, and thought long and hard myself, but ultimately as long as they judge him to be worthy of a spot, that he will add more to the team than someone else currently penciled in (not gifted a spot) they need to take a chance on him. I can’t see that keeping him away (unless someone shows me sounder reasoning to the contrary) that keeping him down for HIS good is the right choice. If he flourishes, what he can bring is invaluable to our team and we owe it to the prospects/young guys already in the NHL to give them whatever help they can get to win. If he has troubles, there are many options, from very sheltered deployment, to something like the old JV plan, one game on – one off for the gym, to the ahl, and so on. I do not see him as frail, he is the oldest brother (and probably had it the hardest) in a fanatical hockey family and had to live and breathe hockey since birth and had to figure out how to survive and win.

    Plus, I really want to see him next year and don’t want to wait, and I think the ticket holders probably do too.

      • Rodeobill

        What I mean is I am not totally assured he will be any less safe in the NHL than in the other options, he has good support with the big club, and the other leagues are still full of players trying to make a name for themselves too, no matter how you slice it, hockey can be rough.
        and to the last, that is my selfish personal admission.

      • Rodeobill

        also, it’s not really enforcers he has to worry about, as they actually don’t take bad penalties usually unless it is for actually fighting, which will never be something he needs to worry about or his role.
        The dangerous players are the cheap shot artists and the abrasive ones more often than not, and hopefully with opportune matchups this situation will be mitigated to some extent, and those players exist in any league he might play in, the NHL specifically is under more of a microscope in that sense too.

  • truthseeker

    Basically same as last week and the other article. Sign him and play him now.

    He should be getting at least 20 games in the NHL to see how he handles it provided he doesn’t bomb in camp. If he’s struggling mightily then yeah, send him to the AHL, but if he’s holding his own then he should be kept up and allowed to work on his NHL game.

    Unless the NCAA is something he and his family are set on (which doesn’t seem to be the case) then the canucks should shut their mouths and never bring it up. They should approach him saying that while they would support his choice to go back to college they don’t think it’s in his best interest as a hockey player and that they want to sign him right away.

    • Bud Poile

      Ellis played his first PARTIAL year in the NHL at 20 and had his first FULL NHL year at 23 years of age.
      Lots and lots of kids go straight into and play in the NHL at 18,right Truthseeker?
      I say this teenager should play a year with his teen aged brother at Michigan.

      • LTFan

        Bud – Agree. Another year at Michigan is probably the best plan for Quinn. That will allow him to fill out a little, get a little stronger and develop into the player that everyone hopes he will be.

      • truthseeker

        Should I name you all the high round draft picks that went straight into the NHL at 18 and performed well? Are you really that stupid that you don’t know who they are?

        • speering major

          I’d be interested to see a list of D that did it. I’m guessing its a short list filled with HOF caliber D but until I see a list it’s just a guess. I’d be happy to be surprised

        • Holly Wood

          The list of D men having success in their draft year is in fact very short. Recently it has Hanifin and Ekblad, Buffalo has a couple from around Horvats draft year but that’s it. Even Neidermayer spent his draft plus one year in junior except for an emergency 4 game callup while the Devils were on a Western swing. I’m sure I missed some but only went back a few years as wanted to stay relevant

        • So I went through the NHL database and pulled up all of the rookie defenceman who were 5’10” and 175lbs or less for the last 20 years. There were only 6 players who came up so I’m posting their summed rookie stats (which may be a compilation of multiple seasons with rookie designation, see David Warsofsky and Matt Grzelcyk) and the age where they had their first major season (more than 10 games played in a season):

          Samuel Girard (19 years 4 months) 73 games, 23 pts
          Matt Grzelcyk (23 years 8 months) 63 games, 15 pts
          Jared Spurgeon (20 years 10 months) 53 games, 12 pts
          Kris Russell (20 years 4 months) 67 games, 10 pts
          David Warsofsky (25 years 4 months) 32 games, 5 pts
          Sebastian Aho (21 years 7 months) 22 games, 4 pts

          Excluding seasons with less than 10 games, TOI averages ranged from 14:47 to 17:39, 19.7 to 23.2 shifts per game. They played virtually no PK but a few players got some reasonable PP time. I don’t have the stats for the NCAA but I would think that Hughes would anchor the Michigan blueline and get significantly more TOI and PP/PK time.

          So one can clearly see that history is against Quinn Hughes even starting in the NHL at his current weight, height, and age. There are successful defencemen which his physical characteristics but they all had several years of seasoning in the AHL, NCAA, or European leagues before making their debut in the NHL.

  • DogBreath

    If the Canucks were well set up and he was a missing piece, sure, put him in the lineup and bring him along slowly. The reality is the Canucks are far from this, so It’s an unnecessary risk bringing him to this team at this time in this market. Give him the tools to succeed and let him grow with the rest of the young guys in Utica.

  • Kootenaydude

    I think you should ask the kid what he wants to do. If he wants to go back to school for a year. That’s great as he will get a chance to put on some weight and play in some great tournaments. If he wants to go pro. The AHL seems the place for him to gel with his teammates of the future. Right now we are full of LHD. All our LHD contracts will be over at the end of the season. Letting him play in the AHL or school for another year will make the whole transition a lot easier. I think he’s a little small to be a defenceman in the NHL right now. No need to rush him.

  • Holly Wood

    I suspect Jim Benning, who was drafted 6th overall in 1981 as a 190 lb defencemen knows what it’s like to be playing in the NHL as an 18 year old. Once again someone with first hand experience will make the decisions. Amazing how that works.

  • Killer Marmot

    With Edler’s contract coming up at the end of next season, Canucks defense — particularly left defense — is at an inflection point. Over the course of 2018-2019, I would like to see most of the slate turned over, so that by April they are playing Hughes, Juolevi, Hutton (if he has a good year), and McEneny, Brisebois, or Sautner.

    It will be disruptive, but the results likely won’t be worse than last year’s, and should only improve after that. As an added bonus, most won’t be eligible for the expansion draft.