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FAMILY BLOODLINES

U.S. blueliner Luke Hughes set to join brothers Jack and Quinn in the NHL

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / CalgaryFlames.com

The NHL slammed on the brakes.

Others, within days.

The world abruptly went dark as the pandemic took hold.

But for this Michigan-based prospect, all that extra free time in the spring of last year led to one surprise perk.

"Quarantine was unbelievable for me to hang out with my brothers," recalled Luke Hughes. "Jack was at my house for like nine months. Just to spend that time with him… We probably won't have that time together as a family ever again.

"It was awesome to train with them in the summer, live with them and watch hockey together."

Luke, a defenceman, is the youngest of the three Hughes brothers. Middle-child Jack, the No.-1 pick in the 2019 Draft, is entering his third season with the New Jersey Devils. The eldest, Quinn, his third with the Vancouver Canucks after being drafted with the seventh pick the year prior.

So, yes, the bloodlines run deep. And if you're a fan of either sibling currently making their mark on the NHL, you'll love what Luke brings to the table.

"You can ask them anything," the left-shot blueliner said of having a sounding board. "Every time they're playing and I'm not, I'm usually watching them. We talk a lot about plays and little areas of the game, what you can do and what you can't do. That's huge for me, and it's a really good tool that I use a lot.

"I also skate with them in the summer, and our pro group is really good, so to be able to play and battle against them every day, that's huge for me."

Just like his brothers, Hughes is a magnificent skater that has excellent top-end speed and lateral mobility. He thrives in an offensive system, putting up 34 points (6G, 28A) in 38 games this year with the U.S. National Team Development Program.

It was a marvelous campaign, and while his body of work was well-scouted, Hughes was forced to miss the all-important World Under-18s as a result of a lacerated foot tendon that required surgery in mid-March. The injury was caused by a skate cut, but he's fully recovered now and will be attending USA Hockey's World Junior Summer Showcase, beginning on Friday in Plymouth, Mich.

 

 

As the No. 4-ranked North-American skater, Hughes brings more to the table than fancy footwork. He prides himself on being a strong, 200-foot player, that can impact games at both ends of the ice, no matter what the score is.

"I can play in all situations," he said, proudly. "I can play the powerplay, the PK, I can defend the cycle, defend the rush and defend the net-front…

"I'm really poised with the puck in transition - and then a big part of my game is my exits and entries. In the offensive zone, I think I'm pretty deceptive with the puck; I try to make things happen.

"I think my three biggest strengths are my hockey sense, my skating and my compete level."

All three are qualities passed down through the family.

Quinn, especially, as a fellow D man.

"They're my two favourite players," Hughes said, flashing a smile. "But the two comparables I have …

"I like to watch Miro Heiskanen. The way he skates, with his size, and how he uses his stick to his advantage. The other one is Shea Theodore. I love how udeceptive he is on the blueline - and, really, how both guys can play left side and right side."

The 6-foot-2, 184-lb. blueliner has committed to the University of Michigan for the upcoming season. With fellow top prospects Owen Power, Matty Beniers and Kent Johnson all possible to return, the Wolverines could be one of the most dominant squads in the NCAA next year.

A national championship is square in his crosshairs.

But for now, he's trying to soak in as much of the draft as possible.

He knows there's a good chance he'll be taken by the Devils with the fourth pick and reuniting with Jack. But no matter where he ends up going, he has both bros to thank for pushing him all these years and helping him cross a major milestone.

"They taught me going into the year that you've got to be ready for anything," he said. "You can't get too high, and you can't get too low.

"That really applied to me this year, with all the COVID implications, getting shut down and having to quarantine numerous times. You've got to stay level-headed.

"That was one big piece of advice they gave me throughout my draft year."

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