Photo credit:Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Quinn Hughes is somehow the Canucks’ most underrated player
By Noah Strang11 months ago
The Vancouver Canucks have never had a defenceman like Quinn Hughes. The 23-year-old has already set franchise records during his brief few years with the club and looks poised to continue to break many more. Not only is Hughes setting Canucks records, but he also recently became the fastest defenceman in NHL history to 200 career assists.
Hughes has dazzled fans in Vancouver since his rookie season but this year he has taken his play to another level. He’s only seven points away from setting a new career high and still has plenty of time to do it. At his current rate of 1.02 points-per-game, he should be there by the end of the month.
Despite his amazing play, Hughes continues to struggle to get the accolades and hype that he deserves. He’s still working to shake off a reputation as defensively weak that he picked up during a sophomore slump. The Canucks have not made life easy for Hughes — constantly switching his partner — but the young defenceman continues to make hockey look easy and he’s overdue for some well-deserved praise.
Hughes takes another step in 2022-23 season
Ever since he stepped onto the ice, Hughes has dazzled with his skating and passing ability. However, this year he’s taken his game to a new level as he’s become more defensively responsible while continuing to put up points at a historic pace.
After a successful rookie season where he was named a finalist for the Calder Trophy, Hughes experienced a small sophomore slump. He struggled on the defensive end of the ice in his second year and the narrative that he was a poor defender started to develop. That may have even been somewhat true during his second NHL season, but it’s something that Hughes has cleaned up since. However, around the league and even in the market to some extent, it’s been hard to shake that reputation.
The Canucks shots and goals against per sixty 5-on-5 minutes with Hughes on the ice. (NaturalStatTrick)
This year, Hughes has had solid to good defensive impacts no matter what metric you use. He’s certainly one of the best defensive defencemen on the team, if only for the fact that when he’s on the ice, the Canucks usually have the puck.
While Hughes is a good defender, he only needs to be average to be considered a great player because of his insane offensive output. He’s scoring at above a point-per-game rate this season with 61 points in 60 games thus far. He’s fifth among NHL defencemen in points while contributing more defensively that a couple of the players ahead of him, namely Erik Karlsson and Josh Morrissey.
Hughes’ reputation across the NHL
Despite his outstanding numbers and habit of pulling off multiple highlight-reel-level plays on a nightly basis, Hughes continues to be underrated on a national level.
When ESPN released its list of the top ten defencemen in the NHL, as voted by ten players and ten staff members of NHL organizations, Hughes wasn’t even named as an honourable mention. Devon Toews, Zach Werenski, Drew Doughty, and Moritz Seider are just a few of the players that received more points than Hughes.
That’s ridiculous when you look at what Hughes has done over the past few years. Since his 2019-20 rookie season, Hughes ranks fourth among all NHL defencemen in points with 223 points. He’s firmly entrenched himself among the best in the business but continues to lack national recognition because of the Canucks’ inability to put a team around him. That, and the west coast start times, of course.
It may take the Canucks being competitive again for Hughes to be consistently mentioned among the elite NHL defencemen. Hughes doesn’t deserve to pay for the shortcomings of the management staff but his reputation will suffer as a result. However, if he keeps performing at this level, it will become impossible for players, fans, staff, and media members around the league to ignore him for much longer.
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