Quinn Hughes of the Michigan Wolverines will be the first US defenseman off the board at the 2018 NHL Draft, with competition from a deep group of defenders at the top of our mid-season ranking. Ryan Wagman provides a detailed scouting report below.
Please Note - We are making this profile of Quinn Hughes available as a sample of the scouting profiles you will receive with a subscription to McKeen's Hockey. Your subscription will include a 96 page PDF publishing on June 1st. We currently have over 70 2018 NHL draft eligible profiles done and will have at least 120 done by the time the draft arrives in June. You can learn more here.
Here is the explanation of the grades we provide below. A note on the 20-80 scale used below. We look at five attributes (skating, shooting, puck skills, hockey IQ and physicality) for skaters and six for goalies (athleticism/quickness, compete/temperament, vision/play reading, technique/style, rebound control and puck handling). Each individual attribute is graded along the 20-80 scales, which includes half-grades. The idea is that a projection of 50 in a given attribute meant that our observer believed that the player could get to roughly NHL average at that attribute at maturity.
2018 Draft Eligible
Position: D, Shoots L
H/W: 5-10", 175 lbs
Stats to date (GP-G-A-PTS-PIMS)
Michigan Wolverines, Big10/NCAA (31-3-18-21-18)
USA U20, WJC (7-0-3-3-6)
Skating: In a draft noted for its abundance of great skating blueliners, Hughes still manages to stand out from the pack. Can support or lead the rush while also able to race back to defend against an opponent who broke away. Very quick in small areas, allowing him pounce on loose pucks, while his vision and stick handling allow him to turn that takeaway into a new chance for his team. Has a nice mohawk technique that he can use to sweep past defenders. Can skate at multiple speeds, faster when going North-South, and more agile when he plays East-West. Edge work sticks out when he elects to jump up from the blueline and dance up the wall. He is comfortable pinching in very deep in the offensive zone, confident that he can recover if need be while his sheer speed makes him a very tough stop for opponents. Also has the ability to subtly change directions, allowing him to veer past the first line of defense. Grade: 65
Shot: Not the strongest part of Hughes’ game, but his point shot is solid. It plays up thanks to his ability to fake a defender out of the way, allowing him to generate a lane for himself and move up to fill it. When he gets a full windup, the point shot can be impressive. He can one-time, as well. Likes to walk the line to see what lanes emerge. The shot will score here and there, but will be more useful at getting to the net and creating rebounds and opportunities for tips/re-directions. Grade: 55
Skills: Hughes is a tremendous and very exciting puck player. His puck skills are simply dynamic. He does not force plays, but is unafraid to take risks to create a scoring opportunity, which can sometimes lead to a turnover. He can stickhandle through multiple layers of defenders. Between his creativity, quickness and hand strength, he is a special stickhandler. Coupled with his high end offensive vision, he can be a dangerous play maker as well. When under pressure, like to shove the puck into open space, using his foot speed to beat the defender to the puck, who cannot react in time. As with his ability to create lanes for shooting, he does the same to create a line to a teammate in a better position. Grade: 65
Smarts: While some may frown at his riskiness, and propensity for turnovers, a reminder that the best defenders in the NHL are also among the leaders in turnovers is in order. The more one has the puck, the more one is liable to cough it up once in a while. Hughes has come a long way this season in his play away from the puck. I would still like to see tighter gaps, but he uses his stick nicely to break up plays and most opponents try to enter the Michigan end on his partner’s side of the ice. As a true freshman and one of the youngest defenders in the NCAA, he has also earned some time on the PK on a very crowded and talented Wolverines’ blueline. He had some notable defensive miscues for the US team in the WJC, making it easy for him to ride the pine, but he has improved enough this season for me not to worry that this would be a long-term concern. He has a keen understanding of the game and most of his risks are calculated. Grade: 60
Physicality: He is definitely undersized and not one to run for the trenches, but Hughes will sometimes show some jam to his game, and will stick up for teammates when the time is called for it. More likely to play greasy when on the attack than when defending. He will never be a physical player, but I expect that he will hold his own once he reaches physical maturity. Grade: 45
Summary: Perhaps not the best prospect in his family (just wait until next year), Quinn Hughes is still one of the top prospects in a solid draft class. A defenseman in the mold of an Erik Karlsson (not saying he will be as good, but follows in that pattern), he has come a long way over the course of his freshman season with the Michigan Wolverines. A true power play quarterback who can be counted upon to play heavy minutes and pick up occasional shifts in defensively critical situations, he will need a bigger partner, but demonstrates that he can play against the best in his age class, as well as a few classes higher. I would prefer to see him given a second year playing NCAA hockey to give him more time to mature physically, but his game is very close to NHL ready. A team can go far with a defender like Hughes in the #1 role.
Overall Future Projection (OFP): 59