Quintin Hughes learned early in his hockey career that having the puck was a whole lot better than chasing it.
That was the appeal to becoming a defenseman when he turned 13 years old.
"When me and my two brothers [Jack and Luke] began playing hockey, we were all forwards," Hughes said. "I switched after playing defense in one game because I really liked it. I had the puck more and saw everything in front of me. It was just a lot more fun."
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Hughes (5-foot-10, 173 pounds) is No. 6 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters for the 2018 NHL Draft.
The first round of the draft, at American Airlines Center in Dallas, is Friday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVAS). Rounds 2-7 are Saturday (11 a.m. ET; NHLN, SN, TVAS).
Hughes, 18, will be the first of the three brothers selected in the NHL Draft, but won't be the last.
Jack Hughes, who could be the No. 1 pick of the 2019 NHL Draft in Vancouver, is the only forward of the group. This season, the 17-year-old had 116 points (40 goals, 76 assists), a record for an under-17 player with USA Hockey's National Team Development Program. It marked the second-highest total in the program's history, one point behind the 117 (55 goals, 62 assists) center Auston Matthews, now of the Toronto Maple Leafs, had in 2014-15.
Luke Hughes, 14, helped the Little Caesars AAA U-14 team to a 7-0 record at the International Silver Stick tournament in Port Huron, Michigan, in January. He's eligible for the 2022 NHL Draft.
"Me and my brother Luke switched to defense when we were 13, but Jack was always the best at forward so why move back if you're the best?" Quintin said.
The brothers have both parents to thank for their hockey skills.
Video: Hughes brothers on their passion and future
Jim Hughes, their father, was director of player development for the Maple Leafs from 2009-15 and now serves as director of player development for CAA Sports' hockey division. A defenseman for Providence College from 1985-89, he also was an assistant coach for the Boston Bruins from 2001-03 and coach for Manchester of the American Hockey League in 2005-06.
"The things he was telling his 19- and 20-year-old prospects, he was telling us when we were 12 and 13 years old," Jack Hughes said of his father. "We kind of have a pro coach living in our house, and whenever he'd watch a game he'd be rewinding things and then get on the ice with us."
Their mother, Ellen Weinberg-Hughes, played ice hockey, soccer and lacrosse at the University of New Hampshire and was inducted into the college's hall of fame in 2012. She also played for the United States women's national team and won a silver medal at the 1992 World Championship.
As a freshman at the University of Michigan and the youngest player in NCAA hockey this season, Quintin Hughes had 29 points (five goals, 24 assists) in 37 games and helped Michigan reach the Frozen Four. His 24 assists are the most by a freshman defenseman in Michigan history.
"He's got a little [Philadelphia Flyers defenseman] Shayne Gostisbehere in him," Michigan coach Mel Pearson said. "[He] is an elite skater, but what I've told him is that he has to manage the game better. He's got to understand that depending the situation of the game or what's going on, when he can maybe take more risks. The risk/reward with him is great.
"We're going to let him play his game, but at the same time he's got to grow his game and learn when he can do those things."
Video: Looking at defensive prospect Quinn Hughes
Hughes realizes understanding when to take chances is important at any level.
"Especially when you get older and people get smarter and teams start to zone in and watch you," he said. "You've got to try to manipulate your own spots. It can't be, 'Well, whenever I see open ice.' You're never going to see open ice because coaches and players are too smart."
Hughes finished his season playing for the U.S. at the 2018 IIHF World Championship. As the youngest player in the tournament, he had two assists and a plus-4 rating, averaging 12:13 of ice time in 10 games.
"He's got pretty good swagger to him, pretty good confidence to him, and not in a demonstrative way outwardly, but an inner confidence," said Detroit Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill, who also served as U.S. coach. "You can tell that he's got that. I think he believed he belonged and he did."
His teammates at the World Championship thought the same thing.
"He's incredible; it's crazy to watch him skate," Chicago Blackhawks forward Alex DeBrincat said. "He's so smooth and so good with the puck. It was a pleasure watching him here. I'd never seen him play before the World Championship, but he's definitely high on my list now."