The Vancouver Canucks’ first-round pick from last year’s draft Quinn Hughes has arrived in Vancouver. While some people are concerned about shaving a year off his contract so he can play in these seemingly meaningless games, these games will greatly benefit Hughes in his development.
I understand that the Vancouver Canucks are going to have to get Quinn Hughes signed a year earlier than they would have to if they waited until next fall to let him make his NHL debut. I understand there’s the worry of him requiring protection in the Seattle expansion draft, but to me, the player’s needs and development should be put first and foremost, and the fact of the matter is, these games go a long way for a player’s development.
Just ask Brock Boeser, who, like Hughes, made his Canucks and NHL debut after his team was eliminated from the NCAA playoffs. Boeser has been very open about how beneficial those games late in the 2016-17 season were for him in preparation for his rookie season in the NHL the following year.
After scoring four goals in the nine games he played at the end of the 2016-17 season — the first which came in his home state of Minnesota against the Wild with friends and family in attendance — Boeser was a nominee for the Calder trophy, and may very well have won the award had he not got injured for the last month of the season.
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Nonetheless, playing in those few games at the end of the season worked wonders for Boeser’s confidence and played a key role in the success he had in his rookie season. On top of that, it gives a player a taste of what playing in the NHL is really like.
Although Adam Gaudette — the Hobey Baker Award winner the year he made his debut — didn’t find success on the scoresheet, he was noticeably getting more and more confident with each game he played. Gaudette needed a bit more seasoning and went down to Utica to start this year, but by playing in those NHL games last year, he knew what he needed to work on down in Utica in order to be an effective player at the NHL level.
Confidence is everything for young players and for a defenceman, in particular, it is even more important. It will certainly be of great benefit for Hughes to make the mistakes any young defenceman will inevitably make early in their careers when the team isn’t competing for a playoff spot — as opposed to next year when the team will be hungry for a spot right from opening night.
The injury to Hughes’ ankle may help the Canucks not have to make a decision about keeping him under the ten game mark to avoid him requiring protection at the expansion draft. He will likely be kept out of the lineup for tonight’s game because of his ankle and could miss more, depending on how much the swelling goes down.
But to those suggesting that burning a year off his three-year entry-level deal is just a waste, remember that while these games may not mean much to us fans, they are extremely beneficial for a young player’s development — especially a defenceman who fans are hoping can be the elite number-one defenceman this team so desperately needs.