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Canucks prospect Hughes opts for NCAA; decision looming for Luukkonen

Foudy, Noel plan to make impact as injury replacements for Canada

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

KAMLOOPS, British Columbia -- Quintin Hughes believes he's almost NHL-ready, but not enough to play for the Vancouver Canucks this season, which is why he opted to return to the University of Michigan for his sophomore season.

Hughes (5-foot-10, 170 pounds), selected by the Vancouver with the No. 7 pick of the 2018 NHL Draft, made his decision Saturday.

"I think I'm ready right now," Hughes said after his first practice with the United States at the World Junior Summer Showcase at Sandman Centre on Sunday. "It's not about stepping in where I can try to survive, it's about stepping in and trying to be a really good player and help the Vancouver Canucks win games.

"The thing was not can I play, but how much can I do. They don't want to force me or rush me into the League. It's unbelievably hard and challenging so they don't want to force me into the League and all of a sudden, my game changes a bit because it's an unbelievable League. They really want me to come in when I can make a difference."

 

[RELATED: Canucks prospect Hughes returning to University of Michigan]

 

Hughes, 18, had 29 points (five goals, 24 assists) in 37 games as the youngest player in NCAA hockey last season. He also helped the U.S. win the bronze medal at the 2018 IIHF World Championship, with two assists and 12:13 of ice time in 10 games.

He said the Canucks didn't give him specific things work on this season, but adding strength and improving his shot are goals. 

Hughes also said Canucks coach Travis Green told him he'd be watching and talking to him frequently.

"He's very invested in my development," Hughes said. "He said he's going to be on the phone with me quite a bit talking about things he wants to see from me. I don't really know what that's going to be yet but there's going to be teaching moments throughout the year."

 

Better late than never for Foudy, Noel

Liam Foudy (Columbus Blue Jackets) and Serron Noel (Florida Panthers) weren't on Hockey Canada's initial roster for the WJSS, but the forwards plan on making the most of their opportunity as injury replacements.

"I want to show what I'm capable of," Foudy said. "Show that I'm here and ready to play and I'm playing for a (2019 IIHF World Junior Championship roster) spot."

Foudy spent part of practice battling with Alex Formenton (Ottawa Senators), his teammate with London in the Ontario Hockey League. 

"Having him here helps a lot, and (London teammate) Robert Thomas (St. Louis Blues) is here for a bit," Foudy said. "Having those guys, any questions you got, they can answer. They're great help."

Noel said his goal for the week is to make Hockey Canada look smart for inviting him.

"Not a lot of people out there my age that are getting this opportunity so going to not take it for granted and work my butt off and show the scouting staff that they made the right choice bringing me in," he said.

Noel already has impressed coach Tim Hunter.

"He's a big (6-5, 205), rangy guy, but a lot of big, rangy guys are not comfortable in their own skin because they've grown so fast and their arms and legs aren't connected," Hunter said. "He looks like he's well-connected. He moves well for a big man and that's a pleasure to watch."

Video: Blue Jackets draft F Liam Foudy No. 18

 

Luukkonen in no hurry to pick team

Buffalo Sabres goaltender prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen is in no rush to decide where he'll play this season.

Luukkonen, 19, was selected by the Sabres in the second round (No. 54) of the 2017 NHL Draft and signed an entry-level contract June 18. Two weeks later, he was selected by Sudbury of the OHL with the No. 3 pick in the 2018 Canadian Hockey League Import Draft.

Deciding between Sudbury or playing another season with HPK in Liiga, Finland's top league, is something he's still debating.

"I will make it when I feel good," he said. "I don't want to rush it.

"In North America there is the smaller rink and you have your hope (to play) in the NHL and [the OHL] might help you. On the other hand, your family is in Finland, your home is in Finland. So there's positives and negatives to both."

Sabres general manager Jason Botterill said he isn't concerned where Luukkonen plays next season.

"We'll continue to talk with him and what's best for his development moving forward," he said.

 

Lundestrom and Zetterlund expect more

Forwards Isac Lundestrom (Anaheim Ducks) and Fabian Zetterlund (New Jersey Devils) are the only skaters here with Sweden who won silver medals at the 2018 WJC.

Each is expected to be a top-six forward for the 2019 WJC, Sweden coach Tomas Monten said.

"I hope to become more of a leader here and show the way, and of course do my job," Lundestrom said. "We came so close against Canada (3-1 loss in the gold-medal game) and want to win the whole tournament now. I want to score points and be in the offensive zone but also improve my D-zone coverage."

Lundestrom (6-0, 183) has skated with Olle Lycksell (Philadelphia Flyers) and Emil Bemstrom (Columbus Blue Jackets) during the first two days of practice at the WJSS.

Zetterlund (5-11, 202) has been skating primarily with Jacob Olofsson (Montreal Canadiens) and Lucas Elvenes (Vegas Golden Knights) the past two days.

Zetterlund and Olofsson played together for Timra in Allsvenskan, Sweden's second division, last season when Zetterlund was there on loan from Farjestad in the Swedish Hockey League.

"They were really good together and the feeling was they found some chemistry last year so we'll see if we can build from that," Monten said.

-- NHL.com staff writer Mike G. Morreale contributed to this report

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