Things may have gone to the dogs for the Vancouver Canucks this season, but the onset of Quinn Hughes has provided at least some impression of confidence in the future.
The 19-year-old blueliner is Vancouver’s ace in the hole, so to speak. He just turned pro Sunday and is due to join the franchise Tuesday. He’ll probably be in the Canucks’ lineup Friday when they face off against the New Jersey Devils.
General manager Jim Benning signed Hughes to a contract Sunday, an entry level deal. The idea is for Vancouver to torch the first year of said contract when he steps on the ice for his first game. He can only play 10 games for the Canucks this season, which means he won’t have to be protected for the upcoming expansion draft when Seattle hits the NHL.
If Hughes plays over 10 games, he’ll be a third-year skater by 2021 and thus eligible for the draft.
The University of Michigan defenceman could be a transformative force for the Canucks.
But there’s a problem and it seems rather typical for Vancouver: he’s injured.
Hughes blocked a shot in the Big Ten best-of-three quarterfinal series opener and played frugally Sunday for his Michigan Wolverines. By the time they were swept out of the playoffs by Minnesota, he was seen limping.
Does this mean there’s a problem? Not necessarily. X-rays revealed no structural damage and the Canucks just want to be careful. There’s a plan and they’re sticking with it.
“He won’t play until he’s 100 percent healthy and when we get that word, and the swelling goes down in his ankle, he’ll be in the lineup,” said general manager Jim Benning. “When I talked to him Monday, his ankle was still fairly swollen. I want him to get in here and get adjusted to the speed and strength of NHL players, but there are aspects of his game where he can help us right now.”
One can’t blame the Canucks for wanting to get the ball rolling. He’s an elite skater and he knows how to carry the play, which could totally change how Vancouver sets things. He’s smart, practical and gifted at envisioning how the play develops.
An offensive attack quarterbacked by Hughes, with Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat and Elias Pettersson up front, is not such a bad thing for the Canucks. The seventh overall pick of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft should, by all accounts, make a big splash for his club as a complete defender.
Coincidentally, his brother Jack should also make a big splash at the 2019 NHL Entry Draft – conveniently taking place in Vancouver.
(Photo credit: University of Michigan)