Skip to main content
The Official Site of the Vancouver Canucks

Hughes ready to rock

...Canucks draft pick preparing to represent USA at the World Juniors

by Ryan Biech @ryanbiech / Freelance writer

The hockey world has descended upon British Columbia for the next few weeks as the 2019 World Juniors Championship gets going on Boxing Day.

Over the last week, there has been a bunch of preliminary games played throughout the province and those contests have started to get the excitement going.

It's a fantastic event with high intensity games played by some of the best junior players in the world.

With the tournament being played in Vancouver and Victoria, hockey fans in the lower mainland are even more excited about the event than usual. That excitement will ramp up when top prospect of the Canucks, Quinn Hughes, hits the ice for the USA.

Hughes will play tonight at the Langley Events Centre in the Americans' final tune-up game prior to the event getting going on Wednesday.

It'll be the first chance for Canucks fans to see Hughes live since the prospect development camp in July, and given his play this season, he should put on a performance.

With his return to B.C. this week and the spotlight placed on him, we can take a look at his season thus far, measure it to his numbers from a year ago and then compare him to some other defencemen's recent NCAA sophomore seasons.

Freshman to Sophomore

So far this season, Hughes has been showing all the things that made the Canucks select him with the 7th overall pick this past June and making noticeable strides in his development.

Through 17 games this season, Hughes is well on his way to surpassing his point totals of 29 from last season. He has three goals and seventeen assists in seventeen games and when looking at the scoring rates, there is improvement in everything except shots per game:

Year

G/GP

A/GP

P/PG

Shots/PG

2017-18

0.14

0.65

0.78

2.51

2018-19

0.18

1

1.18

2.12

It's hard to predict how the NCAA playoffs will shake out but assuming that Hughes returns for Michigan's January 8th contest against Merrimack, Hughes should have 14 regular season games left in the year. With the rate of 1.18 points per game in mind, Hughes is on pace to post 37 points this season and that is before you add the totals from any playoff games that Michigan will inevitably play, as regular season and playoffs are combined in their totals.

Hughes has clearly been holding onto the puck more in the offensive zone, looking for lanes to open up or trying to drag defenders out of position to create space for himself and his teammates. It's part of the reason why his shots per game is slightly down compared to last season.

He is shooting at 8.3% this season which is closer to the average than the 5.4% he shot last season and thus his goals per game has remained close.

It's all part of the maturation to his game - being more confident and patient with the puck.

Hughes is second in points and fourth in points per game among NCAA defenceman.

Comparing to years' past

When comparing players from one collegiate season to another, it can be a little tough to get an accurate representation based solely on the point totals. There are a variety of things that affect the totals including quality of competition, playoff length, players heading to the World Juniors or other mitigating factors. That also doesn't include the fact that freshman isn't a set age either, it can vary anywhere from 18 to 21 years old.

With that in mind, looking at the scoring rates per game can give us some insight into how players are doing compared to peers in previous years.

Here are the top 10 point-per-game sophomore defenceman from the last five years of NCAA hockey (with their drafting team in brackets):

Year

Player

G/GP

A/GP

P/GP

2018-19

Cale Makar (COL)

0.38

0.81

1.19

2018-19

Quinn Hughes (VAN)

0.18

1

1.18

2018-19

Scott Perunovich (STL)

0.12

1

1.12

2018-19

Reilly Walsh (NJD)

0.45

0.64

1.09

2015-16

Jake Walman (STL)

0.48

0.56

1.04

2016-17

Daniel Brickley

0.26

0.74

1

2015-16

Zach Werenski (CLB)

0.31

0.69

1

2017-18

Philip Beaulieu

0.26

0.72

0.98

2017-18

Jeremy Davies (NJD)

0.17

0.81

0.97

2017-18

Alec Rauhauser

0.22

0.73

0.95

It's clear that this year is seeing some dominant performances from sophomore defencemen with the top three slots occupied by skaters this season. Hughes and Perunovich are also leading that peer group in terms of assists per game.

If you look a little further outside of those top 10, Boston Bruins defenceman Charlie McAvoy posted 0.68 PPG in his sophomore season (2016-17) before making the jump to the NHL for the playoffs that spring. Edmonton Oilers defenceman Matt Benning put up 0.67 PPG in his second collegiate season and Tucker Poolman, who is in the Winnipeg Jets organization, posted 0.63 PPG in the 2015-16 season.

There is still half of an NCAA season to go, but the scoring rates that Hughes has been able to put up this season has been very impressive. Hughes had been riding a point streak recently but that is a reflection of the type of impact he is making on a nightly basis. Even if he is having an off game, he still finds a way to get his name on the score sheet.

The fact that Hughes has taken a step forward in most statistical categories and been pushing the play with the Wolverines on a nightly basis, it's hard to not be excited as a Canucks fan.

Now everyone gets to see him on the biggest stage for junior players and for him to make an even bigger name for himself in the city that drafted him.

View More