The Canucks under the microscope: Quinn Hughes

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Blueliner tallied 68 points to surpass the franchise standard of 63 points set by Doug Lidster in 1986-87. He also had 60 assists to break the record of 55 set by Dennis Kearns in 1976-77.

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We look back at the 2021-22 Vancouver Canucks with a focus on Quinn Hughes. Over the next few weeks, we’ll break down the season and look at how player situations stack up in 2022-23…

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Name: Quinn Hughes

Age: 22.
Position: Defense.
Career Stats: GP: 205 G: 19, A: 146, Pts: 165.

Contract status: Five years remaining on a six-year, US$47.1 million extension with an annual salary cap of US$7.85 million. Total annual salary caps at $10.250 million in 2025-26.

How 2021-22 went: Persistence. Patience. Productivity. Hughes was taken off the first power-play unit at some point in November for failing to remember – the club struggled with a 4-9-1 record – and was later added to the penalty spot in December to help trigger a remarkable turnaround. He also dramatically improved his defensive awareness — from minus-24 to plus-10 — and eclipsed two long-standing franchise records for defensemen. Hughes finished with 68 points (8-60) to surpass the norm of 63 points set by Doug Lidster in the 1986-87 season and had 60 assists to better the record of 55 set by Dennis Kearns in 1976-77.

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Lidster first came to admire Hughes when he was a budding star at the University of Michigan because you can teach a lot of things, but you can’t teach skill, anticipation and execution .

“He catches your eye all the time,” Lidster recalled. “What really stands out is that a guy who is so exceptional is usually trying to get out of trouble.

“He made that quick pass before there was any trouble – even if he was backing up, to his right or his left. It was as hard as if he were skating at full stride and it was always band to band.

“In his first year in the NHL, he was a quarterback on the power play and made a pass from the left side to the right flank. And as this guy was shooting, he turned his head to see what his options were if he got the puck. He thinks a step or two ahead of everyone else.

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What the future looks like: The challenge for Hughes is to take his game to another level. Already considered one of the best emerging young defensemen in the game, he needs to increase quick skating, quick thinking and laser-like passing with more of an even-strength offensive zone presence. That could get him closer to what 23-year-old Cale Makar and 24-year-old Adam Fox have done this season for the Colorado Avalanche and New York Rangers, respectively.

Makar had 86 regular season points (28-58) to finish second to Roman Josi of the Nashville Predators in final production. Makar is also the second-highest playoff scorer among defensemen with 22 points (5-17). Fox finished fourth among regular season scoring defensemen with 74 points (11-63) and exited the playoffs leading among peers with 23 points (5-18).

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Hughes finished eighth in scoring among defensemen in the regular season and fifth in power-play production with 31, just seven behind Tampa Bay Lightning point guard Victor Hedman. However, Hughes ranked 41st in shooting (150) and his shooting percentage was 112th (5.3). And while he remains dynamic in finding the open man, landing shots with more speed and accuracy is his natural next stage of development.

Hughes works on all aspects of his game in the offseason and better shooting comes with being good in all areas.

“I usually have goals and want to be up there with the best defenders, but I was motivated and focused on trying to have a good game overall,” Hughes said. “I was only taking 10 games at a time and never really looked at a number – I just played and that’s how the year has been.”

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Perhaps Canucks coach Bruce Boudreau best described the defenseman’s inner drive to succeed.

“He’s a special player, but he’s going to break that (franchise point) record five times from now,” predicted Boudreau. “He knows he’s going to do a lot better in the future.”

Biggest assets: Creativity and adaptability. Added another dimension of shorthandedness by using a quick retreat to leg outs and quickly moving pucks to force the power play to regroup. “Using Petey and Quinn on the penalty kill is a very important thing,” Boudreau said. “You need guys who have great hand-eye coordination to knock down pucks and anticipate pucks. And guys who are really savvy in the areas with the puck. They are really good at it.

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Biggest weakness: Fleet feet and the pace of play often lead to Hughes pinching to outnumber the opposition in the offensive zone. This can lead to turnovers and odd man rushes that need to be reduced.

Does he sell bait? No chance. An untouchable roster with Elias Pettersson and Thatcher Demko.

The big question: Can the star become a superstar? Not a good idea to bet against Hughes.

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Learn more about our Canucks Under the Microscope series

• Elias Pettersson
• Quinn Hughes


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