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Photo Credit: NHL.com

Evaluating the idea of trading up for Jack Hughes

There was plenty of disappointment in Vancouver when the Canucks fell to 10th overall in the 2019 NHL Draft Lottery.

Not only did they drop from their original spot at ninth, but they lost out on the chance at selecting highly touted center prospect Jack Hughes.

Hughes, who is the brother of Canucks’ current defensive prospect Quinn, recently passed Alexander Ovechkin for the all-time points record at the U18 World Championships. The 17-year-old was a monster for Team USA, helping the Americans capture a Bronze Medal with 32 points in 14 combined games.

Hughes projects to be a franchise player. He has an incredible offensive skill-set that includes elite vision, great hands and excellent skating.

Hughes is going to be a gamechanger for whatever NHL teams lands him. The New Jersey Devils have the first overall selection in 2019, while the New York Rangers are picking second. The Chicago Blackhawks slot in at number three.

It’s a general consensus that Hughes and Finnish forward prospect Kaapo Kakko are going 1-2 in this year’s draft. Either Hughes will be a Devil or he will be a Ranger. This means if the Canucks wanted to trade up, they would be negotiating with either the Devils or the Rangers.

Canucks

The problem for the Canucks when it comes to Jack Hughes is that he is a center. The Canucks already have a great 1-2 punch in the middle with Elias Pettersson and Bo Horvat. Adam Gaudette is also a center and he proved in the latter half of 2018-19 that he deserves more ice time and a bigger role.

Having Hughes in the picture would make things very crowded in the middle. Of course, that wouldn’t be a deal breaker if the right trade was on the table. But it should prevent the Canucks from going out of their way to try and force a deal that just isn’t there.

Hughes is also a smaller player, currently listed at 5’10” and 170 lbs. The league is very much heading in the direction of speed and skill. Size simply can’t be used as a knock on a player. Just take Patrick Kane, Johnny Gaudreau and Mitch Marner as recent examples. The list goes on. It can be used as an argument when it pertains to the Canucks, however.

Elias Pettersson had a terrific rookie campaign, but he got thrown around at times and suffered two injuries. When you look at the playoffs and what it takes to win, you need to look at the bigger picture. Would trading a bunch of important players for Jack Hughes improve the team’s chances of defeating the Blues, Jets, Stars, Sharks, Predators or Avalanche in the postseason? It very well could depending on the other moves the Canucks make, but these are the questions that need to be asked.

When you take these factors into consideration, it seems logical for the Canucks to stay the course and address a true need by drafting the best winger or defenseman available at 10th overall.

Trading Partners

The Devils would almost certainly want a Pettersson, Boeser or Horvat as the main piece in a deal. Pettersson is basically untouchable after his sensational rookie season. There’s no point even entertaining his name in any rumours. He’s a franchise player on his own.

Horvat is developing into one of the better two-way forwards in the game and is perceived to be the future captain of the team. He brings so much to the Vancouver roster that is value goes way beyond the scoresheet. He’s invaluable and almost certainly wouldn’t be moved by GM Jim Benning.

Boeser has proven with back-to-back 25-plus-goal seasons that he can be an elite goal-scorer. He’s shown great chemistry with Pettersson and is currently working on a contract extension with the team.

Even if the deal didn’t have to include one of these players, the Canucks would be asked to give up significant pieces of the future. It’s not like the team has been stockpiling draft picks in recent years. It would likely take an overpayment for a player of Hughes’ calibre.

The Devils definitely need a defenseman more than they need a forward, but it’s hard to see them trading the pick. Hughes could center Taylor Hall and form a lethal 1-2 combination down the middle with Nico Hischier.

Even if Hughes went to the Rangers, it’s highly unlikely they would want to move him. Hughes is exactly the type of franchise player they need to lead their rebuild and return to being a contender after their great run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2014.

Conclusion

You almost never see a team trade the number one overall pick at the draft. It’s very rare. Especially when there is a player of Hughe’s calibre. It’s being entertained more this year because the projected number one overall pick has a talented brother already drafted to an NHL team. Unfortunately, that doesn’t increase the odds of it happening by that much.

A player like Jack Hughes changes a franchise. Accordingly, the price for such a player isn’t cheap. The Canucks don’t appear to be in a position where they should make a move to trade up and draft Hughes.

Would you really want to disrupt the young core and ruin years of development? That’s the question Canucks fans will need to ask themselves as the June. 21 Draft Day approaches and rumours run rampant. When you take a realistic look at the situation, the Canucks shouldn’t feel the need to mortgage the future to try and get Jack Hughes. The Canucks will still get a great player at 10th overall and are best off staying the course.

  • Beer Can Boyd

    Trade up for Byram. Canucks already have an undersized superstar center. Besides, how are those fleas like Marner and Gaudreau making out in the playoffs? Remember, NHL hockey is now 2 completely different games. Regular season and playoffs have different rule books. Not saying its right, but it is certainly a fact.

      • Beer Can Boyd

        Marchand is no flea, more like a miniature pit bull. That is not Jack Hughes, and I think you know that. And Panarin fights. He’s tough. The kind of fleas I am talking about avoid contact whenever possible, and are far less effective when the going gets rough. Like Gaudreau and Marner. And most probably Jack Hughes. I’ve been watching the Canucks since 1965, and the only thing I want from them is a Stanley Cup. That will not happen with a team built for the regular season, where every single infraction is called, and soft players are protected. I’m sure you would agree that the Canucks would have been manhandled had they made the playoffs this year.

        • TheRealPB

          The Flames did not lose because of Gaudreau nor the Leafs because of Marner. They were two of the hardest working players on the ice regardless of their size when they lost those series. There were lots of reasons the Leafs and Flames bowed out but this narrative is wrong.

          • Beer Can Boyd

            Real PB. Gaudreau, 99 points in the regular season, 1 point in 5 games in the playoffs. Marner, 94 points in the regular season, 4 in 7 games in the playoffs. They are on these team to provide offence, which they did not do, despite being top 10 scorers in the regular season. Don’t get me wrong, these are incredibly skilled players, but when the rules change 180 degrees, their efficiency disappears. And I care not for Presidents Cups.

    • wojohowitz

      Do you find the officiating to be worse this playoff season or just more of the same as the past playoffs?

      Like last night; Three crosschecks in a row but the media talks diving and not crosschecking.

      Or Pavelski gets crosschecked in the head then run over resulting in a head injury and dripping blood in a pool on the ice gets a 5 minute major and the Knights complain.

      • Beer Can Boyd

        More of the same really, although there have been some brutal hits go totally unpenalized this year. Only league in the world that abandons its rulebook for the playoffs. Ridiculous.

      • Dirty30

        Pavelski was cross-checked … but in the chest and then tripped by Stastny and then fell awkwardly. It deserved a penalty or two. The Knights complained about getting a five minute major. They then let in four goals in under five minutes, ti d it up and still lost in OT.

          • Goon

            Pavelski wasn’t hit by an opponent in the head, he hit his head on the ice.

            I think it’s a joke that the rules are enforced so sporadically in the playoffs, and believe the NHL needs to be far harder on predatory hits and hits to the head, but the hit on Pavelski was neither predatory nor to the head. It was a minor hit that turned into a major injury because of the way Pavelski fell.

    • I’d rather draft or trade down for Soderstrom than trade up for Byram. Soderstrom solves a couple of problems whereas getting Byram will cost us a premium and still doesn’t solve the hole at RHD, we’d still need to another draft selection or roster transaction to solve that.

      • B_Rad77

        I watched Byram in the seattle series and he often switches sides with his partner in game. I have no doubt he can play the right side as long as you can overcome Green’s aversion to having playwrs playing their off side

      • Beer Can Boyd

        There are outliers to every situation. My point being that teams built with small , fast, skillful, players and a lack of overall grit do not fare well in the playoffs. Kane is a superstar, but he had guys like Keith, who is one of the toughest and dirtiest players in the league, watching his back. Along with Bickell, Sharp, Toews etc. In terms of grit, the Canucks have Roussel, thats it. But go ahead and draft Caulfield. 5’7″, 163 lbs. Should do well against Boston or San Jose.

    • Beer Can Boyd – What do you think the acquisition cost for trading up will be? Looking at my pivot table of consolidated draft rankings since March, Byram places anywhere between #2-9:

      2 – NYR 7%
      3 – CHI 7%
      4 – COL 27%
      5 – LAK 13%
      6 – DET 20%
      7 – BUF 13%
      8 – EDM 7%
      9 – ANA 7%

      Let’s assume that these draft rankings are accurate. How high do you think we need to go and what do you think we’d have to give Chicago, Colorado, LA, or Detroit?

      The absence of high-end D means this will be more like 2017 where Heiskanen and Makar went super high rather than 2018 where Hughes, Bouchard, Boqvist and Dobson were available near the bottom of the Top 10. If any one of the teams ahead of us want to draft by position, it’s a huge gap between Byram and Soderstrom/Seider.

      • Beer Can Boyd

        I doubt we’d actually be able to trade up high enough, as I expect Chicago to take him at #3. They have DeBrincat, so they wouldn’t need Boeser, so that means its Petterson (never) or Horvat and our #10, which wouldn’t be worth it.

        • What do you think it will cost if he goes #6 to Detroit? MyNHLDraft.com thinks he’ll go there. Cozens, Dach or Turcotte may be too much to pass up given that there is a decade age difference between Strome and Toews and no blue-chip Top 6 C prospect in their pipeline?

          • Beer Can Boyd

            I’d say the Canucks 1st round pick this year, plus next years in a conditional situation. IE, the 2020 pick reverts to 2021 if it ends up being in the top 3. Something like that. It’s a pretty high price, but people are comparing this kid to Scott Niedermayer, and a true #1 D-man for the next 10-15 years is worth its weight in gold. Or they could just spend 10 million per and sign Karlsson.

          • If Byram is truly a #1 defenceman, maybe it’s not too far-fetched to give up two 1st round picks to draft him. Hamilton cost a 1st and two 2nds and that was considered a steal at the time. (Though I’d still keep the #10 pick and try to sign Karlsson.) But you could imagine the pop if they announced a trade and we drafted Byram in front of a home crowd.

  • Locust

    This has already been discussed here a couple of times.
    No.
    PS: Gaudette hasn’t proven anything. He ‘filled in’ on a poor team decimated by injuries. He has a lot to prove to be considered an NHLer. CA statboy fandom accounts for diddley.

    • Keep in mind that Gaudette only received 10:57 TOI. He’s been given 4th line minutes and responded with 4th line points and fancy stats, which is not bad for a guy with only 61 career games. I’m inclined to say that Gaudette is a legitimate NHL player now and just needs the TOI and associated opportunities and linemates to put up more points. Gaudette should be the net-front presence on PP1 to snap home Boeser rebound, he scored a ton of garbage goals around the crease area in the NCAA.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Would love to see Jack Hughes come to Van, but there is no package that I can see working for the Canucks. It would have to start with Horvat or Boeser (both?) and the #10 pick. Even that would not be enough for a NJ if Hughes is as good as projected.

    Trading up for Byram won’t be easy, either. COL might be willing to trade for a prospect that is further along, but not sure the Canucks have that prospect (Hutton and #10?). I don’t see any cap issues for COL either (though Rantanen is RFA), so no bad contracts to take on as part of a trade.

    Hard to see the Canucks picking anywhere but 10.

    Poo-tee-weet

    • canuckfan

      Is Jack Hughes a franchise player? I have not watched him play except at the World Juniors from a tv but did not think he was noticable plus with the amount of great prospects on the USA team find it hard to see them lose out on dominating the tournaments.

  • wojohowitz

    How about the other side of the coin; Quinn Hughes and Ben Hutton to Jersey for Ty Smith, Jesper Bratt, this years 2nd and next years 1st.

    Or maybe Quinn Hughes looks like he will have a Hall of Fame career and lead us to the Holy Grail?

  • TD

    I agree with BCB that all players are different, and moreover think teams need balance. The Canucks could use a Tom Wilson type player to go with Boeser and Pettersson. They need someone that has skill and size with a real physical element to compliment two smaller skilled players. It’s too bad Virtanen doesn’t fit in that spot. If the second line has Horvat and Pearson as 2/3’s of the line, a smaller skilled player may be a great fit. Teams don’t need 6 big defencemen, but I wouldn’t want the d core to be Hughes, Stetcher and 4 other small d men. For all his limitations, watching Schenn hit everything that moved and initiate scrums anytime the other team went after one of our smaller stars was just what the Canucks needed. Balance.

    • Cageyvet

      Agree with you, and most, that the cost is far too high for Hughes, and I’m sure too high for Byram as well. 10 might get you a player who is top 5 in the 20-20 hindsight re-draft, you never know. Cross your fingers and stay the course, what if we’d traded EP’s pick to move up?

      These top picks aren’t going to move for a bundle of lower picks. That means a high pick plus a proven prospect, not a gamble, however good they may look. Don’t get me wrong, make the call, but don’t expect to hear the GM on the other end doing anything but trying to bend you over and sucker you into a clear overpayment.

  • Burnabybob

    It isn’t going to happen.

    I appreciate this site, but I wish you would get back to writing prospect updates rather than speculative pieces like this. Even once a month would be better than none at all.

  • TheRealPB

    I’d love to see a CA article on successful cases of trading up for a pick. I think the Canucks certainly did that with the Sedins, but I am wondering when else it’s worked. In a case like this maybe it’s different than a McDavid or Matthews who actually do seem to be can’t-miss — but is Hughes like that or like Nolan Patrick, who also had a lot of hype and will probably be a solid NHLer but right now I would rather have EP, Makar, Heiskanen or Hischier.

      • TheRealPB

        More recently, it looks like a mixed bag. In 2007 the Sharks moved up to 9 to pick Couture, accumulating and flipping a bunch of picks for vets to do so. In 2009 the Leafs moved up two spots to pick beloved hit machine Luke Schenn; arguably one of the picks they gave up to do so (Colin Wilson) two spots later was better than Schenn. In 2011 Philly picked Sean Couturier AND got Voracek from CBJ in the Jeff Carter deal but that’s kind of a different trade (a TDL deal). In 2012 the Pens got the 8th overall from Carolina along with Brandon Sutter and Brian Dumoulin for Jordan Staal. In 2013 we of course got Horvat for Schneider. In 2017 the Coyotes traded up to the 7th overall, getting rid of Raanta and Stepan for what turned out to be Lias Andersson and Tony Deangelo.

        I think the lesson is if you are giving up picks or vets it makes sense to take the gamble, but I would never consider doing it if you have to give up much of your core and future. Think about the only precedent we really have — the Lindros trade. If you could do it all over again would the Flyers really give up all those assets?

        Also, it’s kind of weird to see so much of the Canucks mediocrity on that list of trade-ups (Schenn, Sutter, Pouliot)

    • North Van Halen

      But why? I’ve watched this team 50 years and we’ve never had a d prospect with his potential. 50 years. Why would you even consider trading him?

      Unless it’s an established #1 No! No! No!

    • canuckfan

      Not worth even looking into the picks have more value before they are selected as everyone likes a new shinny toy. Quinn has already played a few games so he would either be considered worth his weight in gold or not much.
      At this time I would rather go with the number 10 pick and see how Quinn makes the team look next season. Our defense has already had a couple tweaks by adding Quinn and having prospects from Utica fill in for injuries, and not looking bad, and of course Schenn. Just with starting the season with these tweaks I think we will be better than the start of last season.
      If people could remember how bad the predictions were at the start of the season and then wham we are flying out of the gate until the injuries hit. With Pettersson being a hit right off the drop of the puck in the first game the rest of the team were able to pick their game up now if Quinn Hughes can give that extra swagger to the team we can make the playoffs making a couple changes up front. Whether it is signing a free agent that can put the puck in the net, MacEwen makes the team and is able to make a contribution or a trade. Imagine if we draft Caulfield at number 10 and put him on a line with Gaudette and MacEwen who knows Gaudette and Caulfield will get room and MacEwen can make sure they don’t get cheap shotted. Gives Canucks 3 scoring lines, harder to defend and we have Eriksson, Sutter and Beagle on the fourth line and penalty kills.

  • Hockey Bunker

    No thanks. I agree with BCB Byram is the guy but the Hawks will keep him and he’ll be the new Keith. Darn it anyway. But he falls within striking range Canucks need to trade up, even if it costs a future first or two along with a good kid or two.

  • KCasey

    I feel like I’m the scenario that this trade was pulled off, and we did overpay which we would absolutely have to do, the rest of the team might feel a little jaded. As in they may view the Hughes brothers as the reason why their Captain and/or Flow Master were sent out. I know there is the counter argument that Jack makes the team better in the long run but so does having the rest of your roster feel they are not just expendable assests….after they inked deals commiting to your team. In Horvats case very team friendly deals. Luckily we will never no the snowball effects of how block buster trades of this variety play cause they just don’t happen….certainly not in this cap crunch era where all teams know you need cheap young controllable assests, which is where we currently are in many respects.

  • The_Blueline

    The recent work on CA lacks the quality I was used to from this blog. No in-depth analysis, no underlying data, just an opinion o an author without insider information. I know it’s a free blog, and this is not meant as attacking the author but CA was different not so long ago.

    As to the article, having too many centers is never a problem. And yes, the 1st pick almost never gets traded which is why trading Bo or Brock in a package is the starting point. I would do it.

  • Ocelator

    You’re gonna overpay for Jack Hughes, no mater how you slice it. It’s a sellers’ market. The smarter choice is to take advantage of rampant demand and trade Quinn to the team that gets Jack, particularly if it’s NYR, who have young assets coming out the ying yang and could market the Hughes Bros to the moon. The Canucks could set themselves up for years to come if they make a truly gutsy trade.

    • North Van Halen

      Can you name a single top pairing defenceman with Norris potential? If not, again I say No! No! No! Is there some reason we don’t ever want a star dman? Ever?

      • Agree. I don’t see a package that NYR can offer us that makes sense. NYR has mid-tier defensive prospects so we’re going to end up with defensemen who are worse than Hughes. The quantity wouldn’t make up for the quality. Trading Hughes for one of their blue-chip forwards is robbing Peter (downgrade defense) to pay Paul (upgrade offense) and really doesn’t make sense when we are poised to draft a blue-chip forward anyways at #10.

        We got lucky that Montreal and Arizona drafted by position rather than by best-player-available. Is the grass always greener on the other side?

        • North Van Halen

          Stars win cups and I can only think of 2 teams in the last 50 years to win a cup without a defenseman that controls 30 minutes a game. The Hurricanes and Pittsburgh 2 years ago. The Canucks almost did it with 5 no 2’s but the key to a cup is 2 stud centres & a stud a stud Dman.
          We finally get one that has chance to be that guy, you’d have to pry him from my cold dead hands. No! No! No!

          • Beer Can Boyd

            He’s played 6 games. And he’s tiny by NHL standards. Yet somehow he’s a potential Norris trophy winner already? Maybe put the brakes on slightly? The Hughes brothers together is a marketing dream, and the Rangers would way over pay for that. Sorry, but I’d take 3 quality young players for him. Besides, who doesn’t love a good blockbuster trade? Moot point anyway, as the Devils will be taking him at #1.

  • Kanuckhotep

    Trading up for Jack Hughes is one-step-forward one-step-back scenario if that favourable. The Hughes Bros. is an intriguing idea but what would it cost? Our 10th plus NJ would probably want Brock and to throw in Jake and some other prospect or even, say, Ben. No to this. Bottom line: it would cost more than what it’s worth IMO.

  • Holmes

    I think notionally, it’s a valid argument – playoffs are brutal and harsh and some of the smaller, skilled players lose their efficacy in that environment. Patty Kane didn’t though; same with Jake Guentzel, Stevie Y, Gretzky and so on. Jack Hughes could end up being the toughest SOB on the ice in the playoffs.

    NHL being a copy cat league though, no doubt Tampa – with all those wee men at forward – getting bounced by a big mean, fast team like Columbus is going to have a ripple effect at the draft.

    • Paul1966

      I think the only way up to Hughes at #1, if indeed you wanted to, would be to move up in stages and be prepared to draft at one of the points along the way if your next trading partner wasn’t interested in the deal. Something like this Hutton and 10 to move up to 6. One of our goalies and the 6 to move up to 3 and then our 2020 first and maybe other picks and the 3 to move to #1. If we made it just to the #3 we could then draft Byram. In this scenario we would have to get lucky convincing one of these partners to do the particular trade. I still don’t know if it would be possible or worth it.