Quinn Hughes a hit with U.S. NHL teammates, Blashill
At 18, Quinn Hughes is the youngest player in this year’s International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships. And he’s more than holding his own.
The United States defenseman, who was a sophomore at Michigan this past season, has turned heads with his skating, passing, feel for the game and confidence at such a young age.
“He’s a smart player,” U.S. teammate and Calgary Flames star forward Johnny Gaudreau told NHL.com. “He carries himself really well. You never think he’s 18 years old the way he handles himself around the locker room, around the guys, around the team. I’ve been very impressed with him. I’m sure he’s going to have a bright future ahead of him.”
Despite Hughes’ 5-9, 170-pound frame, he is No. 6 on Central Scouting’s final rankings of North American skaters available for the NHL Draft on June 22-23, which will be held in Dallas.
Hughes had five goals and 29 points in 37 games at UM this season. At the World Championships, he has two assists and is plus-4 in an average of 12:20 per contest in eight games.
And – according to the IIHF website – after seven games, Hughes had the highest percentage of successful passes (74.29 percent) of any player in the tournament.
Team USA captain Patrick Kane, the tournament’s leading scorer and a Chicago Blackhawk, has become a Hughes fan.
“I hope he’s there at No. 8 for the Blackhawks (who have the eighth pick in the first round),” Kane said. “It’ll be awesome. But he’ll probably be gone by then.
“He’s a great player, great skater and he’s got a bright future ahead of him.”
If Hughes isn’t there when Chicago picks, it could be because someone else has had the opportunity to watch Hughes from behind the U.S. bench for the entire tournament.
That would be Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill, who is coaching the Americans.
Detroit has the sixth overall pick and is looking for a defenseman with offensive ability who can move the puck.
Hughes would obviously fill that need. However, according to published reports, many feel the Red Wings are leaning toward London Knights (OHL) defenseman Evan Bouchard, who is bigger at 6-2 and 195 pounds, if he is available.
But Hughes has still impressed Blashill, particularly with the way he carries himself.
“He’s got pretty good swagger to him, pretty good confidence to him, but not in a demonstrative way outwardly, but an inner confidence,” Blashill said. “You can tell that he’s got that. He’s handled that pretty well. I think he believes he belongs, and he does belong. He’s done a good job with it.”
While Blashill won’t be making the call on who Detroit takes in the draft, he has almost certainly given GM Ken Holland his input on Hughes, which will carry some weight with Holland.
Hughes appreciates all the compliments.
“It’s obviously great to hear,” he said. “I think the pros have been great with me here. I can’t say enough about them taking me in and being great guys, especially veterans. They don’t have to come up to the 18-year-old and give him the time of day. They’ve been great with me, and I really appreciate it.
“It’s great to hear. And I’m just trying to do my thing and be a great teammate and try not to be too loud, be quiet and stick in a corner. They’ve been great. It’s been awesome.”
The U.S. (5-2-0-1) faces Sweden (7-1-0-0) at 9:15 a.m. Saturday in the first semifinal.
Team USA defeated the Czech Republic 3-2 in the quarterfinal on Thursday. Sweden, which edged Latvia 3-2 in the quarterfinal, has probably been the best and most consistent team in the tournament. It features the Red Wings’ Gustav Nyquist.
Canada (4-2-1-1) then plays surprise Switzerland (4-1-1-2) at 1:15 p.m. Canada beat Russia 5-4 in overtime on Thursday in the quarterfinal, while Switzerland upset Finland 3-2.
The gold- and bronze-medal games are on Sunday.