- DOB: 10/14/1999
- Team: University of Michigan (NCAA)
- Defense | Shoots: L | 5’10”, 180 pounds
- 2017-18 Stats: 37 GP - 5G, 24A, 29 points, 26 PIM
Rasmus Dahlin may have taken all of the headlines when it comes to defensemen at this year’s NHL draft, but there is a talented crop of rearguards who should be selected in the first round and beyond. At the top of that next tier is Hughes, who completed his freshman season at the University of Michigan this spring.
In terms of talent, Hughes is one of the most elite upside players in this draft, with a raw skill set that will be groomed for the NHL over his next few developmental seasons.
The first thing that you notice when watching Hughes play is how natural he is as a skater, and it’s this part of his game that is making scouts and general managers so exited. As a rare breed of elite skater, he can control the transition game with the ability to carry pucks through the neutral zone with pace, putting defenders in difficult one-on-one situations. When Hughes pairs this with his innate ability to read the play and make correct decisions offensively, it’s a joy to watch.
Obviously size is something that will always be talked about as a knock against him, but as he continues to build strength, he will improve in the defensive zone. In his freshman season, his battles lost were more due to bulk then positioning or motivation. Let’s not forget that Hughes played as a freshman in college in his draft year, a rarity in the NCAA’s.
Projecting out, Hughes is the ideal power play specialist for the next level. More of a passer then a shooter, the talented defender will rack up the power play assists as he sets his teammates up for easy scoring chances. Thankfully the NHL continues to evolve and more emphasis is placed on possession to transition and talent on the blueline then ever before. Hughes is a perfect fit for that style of play, undersized or not.
Hughes will be this year’s Cale Makar, as the player a team falls in love with high up the draft board due to the incredible upside. He is still years away in terms of an NHL impact, but any team willing to wait should be rewarded down the road.