Vancouver Canucks defenceman Quinn Hughes is on pace for a record season with the club. He is close to setting two records with the organization this season, the most points and the most assists by a defender in a single season. Doug Lidster holds the record for most points by a defenceman with 63 points. Meanwhile, Dennis Kearns holds the record for most assists by a defender with 55 assists. Hughes has 13 games remaining to break both records.
On Pace to Supass Lidster
The Canucks drafted Lidster in the 1980 NHL Draft with the 133rd overall pick in the seventh round. He played 10 seasons with the organization, followed by six additional seasons in the NHL. He set the record for most points by a Canucks defenceman in a single season in 1986-87. The 1986-87 season was a rare one for Lidster, as he failed to surpass the 40 point mark throughout his career.
Hughes has 53 points in 65 games this season, while missing four games. Therefore, as long Hughes is healthy, he’ll play 78 games in the 2021-22 campaign and is on pace to record 64 points in those 78 games, which means he will have just enough points to break Lidster’s record.
On Pace to Surpass Kearns
Kearns joined the Canucks in the 1971-72 season and proceeded to play 10 seasons in the NHL, all with the club. He set the record for most assists by a Canucks defenceman at 55 in the 1976-77 season. The season before, he recorded 46 assists in 80 games and in the 1977-78 season, he posted 43 assists in 80 games. The three-year span was the best of his career.
Hughes sits at 48 assists this season. He is on pace to post 58 assists, enough to surpass Kearns’s assist record for the first time in 45 years.
Almost Set Record in Rookie Season
This isn’t Hughes’ first time nearing Lidster and Kearns’ records. Hughes posted 45 assists and 53 points in 68 games in his rookie season. The 2019-20 season ended early due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The defenceman was on pace to post 54 assists, one assist short of Kearns and was on pace to record 63 points, tying Lidster’s record through 81 games.
Hughes’ rookie season was memorable as he finished second in the Calder Trophy race to Cale Makar. His 53 points were the most by a rookie defenceman in franchise history. Additionally, he posted the fifth most points for a Canucks rookie behind Elias Pettersson (66), Pavel Bure (60), Trevor Linden (59) and Brock Boeser (55).
Similar to Hughes, other defencemen have also neared Kearns’ and Lidster’s record more than once since they set it. Lidster, along with Paul Reinhart, has neared the assist record. He posted 51 assists in the 1986-87 season. Meanwhile, Reinhart posted 50 assists in 64 games in the 1988-89 season.
Reinhart also neared Lidster’s record in his two seasons with the Canucks. He posted 57 points in 64 games in the 1988-89 season and 57 in 67 games in 1989-90. Jyrki Lumme also neared the record in two seasons throughout his nine years with the club. He posted 55 points in 83 games in 1993-94 and 54 in 80 games in 1995-96.
Bounce Back From Disappointing Sophmore Season
Hughes is having a bounce-back season after putting together a somewhat disappointing sophomore campaign. Through 56 games, he scored three goals and 41 points. In comparison, his points per game played (P/GP) pace is up from .73 in 2020-21 to .82 in 2021-22. Along with his improvement production-wise, his game all around is much better than last season. He’s improved his plus/minus from a minus-24 last season to a plus-8 this season.
Additionally, he has taken a bigger responsibility this season, playing on the team’s penalty kill (PK). Since Bruce Boudreau has taken over as the club’s head coach, he has deployed his top players on the PK. In turn, the team’s PK has improved. Hughes and Pettersson both asked the new head coach to place them on the PK in order to complete their gamet (from ‘Canucks: Quinn Hughes hypes ‘fun’ factor of improved penalty kill’ The Province, May 27, 2021).
Hughes Continues to Be the Top Offensive Defenceman in Franchise History
Hughes will likely surpass the assist and points record, whether it is this season or later in his career. Nonetheless, he continues to be one of the best offensive defensemen in franchise history. He has 150 total points in 194 career games, which is good enough for 14th for defenceman in team history.
Additionally, his .77 P/GP is the second-best behind Reinhart for any defenceman that has played at least 100 games for the Canucks. It is very likely if Hughes finishes his career with the club, he will hold on to the record of most points by a Canucks defenceman, which is currently held by Alex Edler, who has 409 points in 925 games.
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.