Vancouver Canucks rookie Quinn Hughes placed 12th on NHL’s “Super 16” defencemen rankings for the Stanley Cup qualifiers.
The No. 7 selection from the 2018 draft pieced together one of the greatest seasons ever for a rookie defenceman. The 5-foot-10 Hughes recorded eight goals and 53 points in 68 games, helping Vancouver qualify for the NHL’s 24-team “return to play” postseason format.
Hughes transformed the Vancouver blue line that had been a weak link for the better part of the past five or so years. The team finished with 228 goals for, eighth-most in the NHL. He was also instrumental in revamping a power play that finished fourth in the NHL at 24.2 percent.
In his first full season, Hughes quickly asserted himself as one of the top overall defencemen in the game. And he’s only getting started.
On Wednesday, NHL.com compiled their “Super 16” list of the best defencemen for the Stanley Cup qualifiers, and Hughes found himself in the No. 12 spot:
The 20-year-old led NHL rookies and was tied for fourth among defensemen with Tony DeAngelo of the New York Rangers in scoring this season. His style appears to mirror that of Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith, a two-time Norris Trophy winner, a Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoff MVP and three-time Stanley Cup champion. Hughes scored 25 points (three goals, 22 assists) on the power play, tied with Neal Pionk of the Winnipeg Jets for third at the position behind Torey Krug of the Bruins (28) and Carlson (26).
Interestingly, the 20-year-old Hughes was four spots behind Colorado Avalanche defencemen Cale Makar — his main challenger in the Calder Trophy race. Makar finished with 12 goals and 50 points in 57 games.
Still, it’s remarkable that a rookie defenceman managed to reach the top 12 on this list. And it won’t be long until Hughes places himself in the top five, seeing that many of the blueliners placed ahead of him are starting to near the end of their primes.
Hughes’ teammate, Elias Pettersson, was surprisingly absent from the “Super 16” list of the top centres for the Stanley Cup qualifiers — although goalie Jacob Markstrom managed to make the list for the top goalies.
It’s still unknown if the 2019-20 season will be played out. At any rate, it was a highly successful year for the Canucks, and they’ll continue to progress closer and closer to Stanley Cup contention in 2020-21.