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How Quinn Hughes made the jump to leader and Norris contender in 2022-23

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Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Noah Strang
6 months ago
At 23 years old, Quinn Hughes has already established himself as the best offensive defenceman in Canucks history. He has 241 points through 283 career games, good for seventh best among all defencemen in Canucks franchise history. With four years left on his current contract, it’s only a matter of time before he’s challenging for the top spot.
During the 2022-23 NHL season, Hughes took yet another step forward and established himself as a legitimate Norris Trophy candidate. He set career highs in numerous statistical categories including assists and points while maintaining a strong level of defensive play.
While not a shutdown one-on-one defenceman, his ability to control play and keep a calm head under pressure means Hughes is not a liability on that end of the ice. The Canucks outscored opponents 81-61 at 5-on-5 while he was on the ice this season, a number made even more impressive by the fact that he was playing in front of shaky goaltending for much of the year.

Recapping Quinn Hughes’ 2022-23 NHL season

After a shaky sophomore season, especially on the defensive side of things, Hughes had put together an excellent 2021-22 NHL season and silenced some of the critics. Entering this year, there was pressure to build on that and prove himself worthy of being a number one defenceman. He did that and more as the 2022-23 season marked his arrival into the top tier of NHL defencemen.
He finished the season tied for second among all NHL defencemen in scoring with 76 points. Out of the top three point scorers, Josh Morrisey and Erik Karlsson being the others, Hughes had the best goal differential at 5-on-5 and played the most minutes per game.
Everyone in the hockey world knows that Hughes is a special offensive talent but it’s his defensive play that is often underrated, especially when you look outside of Vancouver. Out of all regular Canucks defencemen, he was one of the best at suppressing shots and goals against at 5-on-5 despite playing heavy minutes and often facing other teams’ top-six forwards.
Canucks defencemen 2022-23 stats at 5-on-5
Hughes also has the ability to carry a defensive pairing and help his partner look better. No matter if it’s Ethan Bear, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, or Luke Schenn, they all played some of their best hockey while alongside Hughes. The OEL/Hughes pairing even had a neutral goal differential at 5-on-5 and a positive Corsi %, making it the only such pairing that played at least 30 minutes and included OEL to do so.

Quinn Hughes 2022-23 season grade

Expectations were high for Hughes entering this season. He not only managed to meet all the lofty goals set for him but even surpassed them in most cases. Finishing second in the league in points while keeping up his strong defensive numbers makes the 2022-23 season a smashing success and earns him a high grade.
In addition to his excellent play on the ice, Hughes also managed to take steps as a leader within the organization. When Rick Tocchet took over behind the bench midway through the season, he empowered Hughes to take a bigger role off the ice. No matter if it was publicly calling out the organization for the mishandling of teammate Tanner Pearson’s injury or speaking to the fans after the final game of the season, Hughes became noticeably more vocal as the season went on.
“I’ve only been here for four months and from day one to 120 days later, Huggy [Hughes] has really made that trajectory to be a captain,” Rick Tocchet said in a recent podcast appearance as he praised Hughes’ leadership skills. “He’s done some things that are uncomfortable and he’s said some things that are uncomfortable that you have to do to say to teammates or a coach to put your balls on the line. That’s what captains do. It’s not just about organizing the team party, it’s about being able to put your teammates first and also go into a coach’s office and say ‘Hey Toch [Rick Tocchet], you got to back off in practice, I got this and I guarantee the next game we’ll be ready to play’.”

Final Grade: A+

What does Quinn Hughes need to do to have a successful 2023-24 season? 

When it comes to playing hockey, Hughes has already accomplished more in four seasons than most do across an entire career. To have a successful 2023-24 NHL season, he’s going to need to score another 70+ points while carrying a big load for the Canucks. The team has a thin blue-line group and he will need to be playing 25-26 minutes a night in all situations.
The biggest factor in evaluating Hughes’ 2023-24 NHL season will be how he steps into a leadership role on the team. He’s going to be wearing a letter on his sweater and needs to continue to speak up and be an example in the room. Tocchet clearly is putting some additional pressure on the young stars to step up and Hughes has responded well thus far. Further steps in this area will ensure that Hughes has a successful 2023-24 season.

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