Canucks: Rookie defender Hughes shoots to front of the Calder race

VANCOUVER, BC - APRIL 2: Quinn Hughes #43 of the Vancouver Canucks skates up ice during their NHL game against the San Jose Sharks at Rogers Arena April 2, 2019 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)"n
VANCOUVER, BC - APRIL 2: Quinn Hughes #43 of the Vancouver Canucks skates up ice during their NHL game against the San Jose Sharks at Rogers Arena April 2, 2019 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)"n /

Canucks: Have you heard the Hughes? Rookie defender Quinn Hughes’s star was shining on Wednesday eve as he took a share of the lead in the NHL Calder race.

Scoring with three assists in a convincing Vancouver Canucks 5-3 win on Wednesday, Quinn Hughes joined Colorado Avalanche defender Cale Makar in a tie for the NHL-rookie scoring lead, which unexpectedly sets the two defenders well ahead of Quinn’s brother and centre Jack Hughes, who was an early favourite to win the Calder race.

Quinn and Makar have both played in 12 NHL matches this season, each with one goal and nine assists for 0.83 points per game.

There’s underdog intrigue to this story for Canucks fans, as Quinn — the oldest of the Hughes brothers — was not the early favourite to lead the Calder race. However, with all the good fortune around the Canucks so far this season, it’s not exactly surprising that west coast Hughes is the news.

A few months ago, this writer discussed Quinn and his competition for the NHL’s 2020 Calder Trophy, expecting Kaapo Kakko and Jack Hughes to be the frontrunners if things went well. However, neither of these two very green but talented rookies has taken off yet this season.

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While both have played 10 games, Jack now has five points, and Kakko only three. There’s still time for these ultra-talented teenagers to turn their games around. Unfortunately, poorly performing teams have also contributed to their slow starts.

If Quinn can manage to stay healthy for the entire season – a challenging task for any Canucks defender – then right now he’s on pace for 68 points, which would be incredible for several reasons.

As any self-respecting Canucks fan should do, while we’re projecting Hughes to score 68 points, we might as well round up to 70 points, because it sounds more fun, and why not when we can expect his impact will be even more significant after a little seasoning.

Mark this writer’s words, before all is said and done this season, Hughes will help his franchise centre Elias Pettersson to outscore the young Toronto Maple Leafs’ centre and $11 million man, Auston Matthews.

If Hughes can score just 64 points it’ll be the most by any Canucks defender ever. How’s that for a celebratory mark on the storied 50th Canucks season? In 1986-87, the 26-year-old Doug Lidster set the Canucks all-time scoring record for a defenceman with an electrifying 63 points.

And it doesn’t stop there; the incredible just keeps on going. The Canucks’ most recent Calder winner, Pettersson, scored 66 points last season. If Hughes were to outscore that magical marker as a defenceman, where could he go from there? Where could we all go?

This team with the most creative skater on its backend — a skater who may be able to offer 70 points — is not just a wildcard team. They could win rounds and rounds. Perhaps it’ll take a season to work out the kinks, but this newly constructed roster is starting to look like Canucks GM Jim Benning’s Mona Lisa. Magical, captivating, and stunning.

All this, and Benning still has more troops coming. His army is mounting. To say the least, prospects Vasili Podkolzin, Nils Hoglander, Adam Gaudette, Kole Lind, Zack McEwen, Olli Juolevi, Nikita Tryamkin, Jett Woo, and Michael DiPietro are not too far behind. Backup goaltender Thatcher Demko has stood on his head with a .941 save percentage in his first four games of the season, and he’s quietly making his own case as a Calder Trophy contender.

If Hughes can continue to improve and a lot goes well for the Canucks, which it looks like it may with all the quality depth that Benning has added over the past couple seasons, then it’s reasonable to expect that this team will be a Stanley Cup contender by as soon as next season (2020-21), and continue into the sunset thereafter for many seasons to come.

While a lot has to happen before we can talk seriously about the Canucks winning a Stanley Cup, or even how the west was won, right about now Benning has to like his chances of making it two years in a row for one of his prospects to win the Calder Trophy. If Quinn is to win, it will make a pretty compelling case for a pending Stanley Cup. Stay tuned folks.

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Thanks for reading this bit of Hughes news. Continue the entertainment by commenting below. Do you like Hughes’s odds to win the Calder race? Are his first dozen games enough to say that he’s arrived and makes the Canucks a threat to win the west?