There’s been a lot of uncertainty for the Vancouver Canucks this year, but there’s absolutely no doubt about who should win the award for best blueliner.
After being officially eliminated from the playoffs during their 5-2 win against Seattle on Tuesday night, the team will prepare for one last home game on Thursday, facing off against the Los Angeles Kings on Fan Appreciation Night.
As is the case every year, the organization will present seven different awards to the players throughout the evening, four of which are voted on by the fans: the Fred J. Hume Award for “Unsung Hero”, the Pavel Bure Award for “Most Exciting Player”, the Cyclone Taylor Trophy for “Most Valuable Player” and the Walter (Babe) Pratt Trophy for “Best Defenceman”.
Here at The Canuck Way, we’ve debated and given our opinion on who could walk away with the hardware for the first three awards, as has the rest of the fanbase.
However, when it comes to the team’s best defenceman, it’s near impossible to look past what Quinn Hughes has accomplished on the blueline.
Hughes has been absolutely electric to watch since entering the league back in the tail end of the 2018-19 season, and he made sure to take an even bigger step towards stardom this season.
As expected, the former 2018 first round selection continued to rack up the points this year, notching eight goals and 58 assists in 74 games, tying him with Elias Pettersson for second in team scoring.
Of those 64 points produced, Hughes, who won the Walter “Babe” Pratt Trophy for the past two years, currently sits second in team scoring for assists and powerplay points (31), only trailing J.T. Miller in both of those categories.
His current point totals also have him ranked eighth in NHL scoring amongst blueliners, while his average TOI of 25:12 places him 12th amongst all NHL players, putting him into elite conversation with the likes of other superstars such as Cale Makar, Roman Josi and Adam Fox.
Hughes also recently made franchise history, passing Doug Lidster for most points by a Canucks defenceman in a single season with 64, as well as Dennis Kearns for most assists by a Canucks defenceman in a single season with 55, two records that the 22-year-old will inevitably break again in the near future.
Of course, it’s not just about the points when it comes to selecting Vancouver’s best defenceman, and Hughes is well aware of that.
After finishing last season with a dismal +/- rating of -24, Hughes vowed that he would improve upon the defensive fundamentals heading into the 2021-22 season, and he hasn’t disappointed on that promise.
Despite standing in at just 5’10” and 180 pounds, Hughes has proven that he can compete with some of the bigger forwards in the league, as indicated by his strength when chasing down the puck, as well as his ability to keep up with and shut down his opponents, particularly when they’re trying to establish entry into the offensive zone.
As a result, Hughes has also earned some penalty killing responsibility from head coach Bruce Boudreau, a task that he was never assigned to him under former bench boss Travis Green, but one that he has actually done quite well in so far.
What’s even more impressive is that Hughes was once again able to establish these metrics and point totals without a consistent defensive partner.
Of course, we’re not trying to take a stab at the likes of Luke Schenn, Travis Dermott or even Travis Hamonic, all three of whom have done a respectable job on Hughes’ right-hand side, but they’re still far from what a true number one defenceman needs on his flank.
Yet, despite the roster inconsistencies and numerous coaching changes throughout the year, Hughes was once again able to showcase his elite speed, puck control, hockey IQ and offensive prowess on multiple occasions, something that Canucks fans will be hoping to enjoy for years and years to come.
All four awards will be announced throughout Thursday’s game against Los Angeles, with puck drop set for 7:00pm PST at Rogers Arena.
What are your thoughts on Hughes’ lock for the Walter “Babe” Pratt Trophy? Let us know in the comments!