At 22 years old and only 134 games into his NHL career, Quinn Hughes is already in the conversation as the Canucks’ best defenceman of all time. Points-wise Alex Edler leads the way with 409 points in 925 games, but with 100 points already on his resume, it likely won’t be long before he’s knocking on the door as the franchise’s top point producer from the back end. If he remains at this pace, he will be hitting 300 points before the end of the six-year contract he just signed. By the time he plays 925 games, he could be flirting with 900 points which would put him in the realm of the greats like Bobby Orr, Scott Stevens, and Larry Robinson.
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There are likely a lot more highlights to come, but here are a few memorable ones from his first 100 tallies in the NHL.
Hughes’ First Point in the NHL Was a Beauty
Like Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson before him, Hughes came into the NHL with a bang. No, he didn’t score his first NHL goal in his first NHL game, but he did put on a show for his first NHL assist. Dashing down the right wing using his trademark smooth skating stride, he busted around forward Trevor Lewis, banked the puck to himself off the net, and then proceeded to get a good shot on Jonathan Quick. The Los Angeles Kings’ veteran netminder made the save, but Boeser was there to deposit the rebound, thus giving Hughes his first point in the NHL.
Watching Hughes put on a display like that in his first game was just a glimpse into the future for the then-19-year-old. Little did everyone know at the time, but that was just a taste of what was to come.
Hughes’ First NHL Goal
Hughes didn’t have to wait too long before he was celebrating his first NHL goal. Only three games into his rookie season on Oct. 9, 2020, he blasted home his first against none other than Quick and the Kings once again. He must like playing against them because he already has six points in four games and two of those points sit in his trophy case.
Hughes ended up scoring eight goals in his rookie season, including his first two-goal game and overtime winner on Feb 1, 2020, against the New York Islanders.
Hughes Shines in the 2020 Bubble Playoffs
Before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the rest of the 2019-20 regular season, Hughes was on pace to shatter a few franchise records for defencemen including the most points in a single campaign. Even without the extra games, he finished with an impressive eight goals and 53 points in 68 games and was two points ahead of eventual Calder Trophy winner Cale Makar.
Hughes continued his greatness in the playoffs with his first two postseason goals against the Minnesota Wild and Vegas Golden Knights. He also put up a bush load of points on his way to a franchise-record two goals and 16 points, surpassing Jeff Brown who had held the record for 26 years.
Hughes Continues the Point Parade in 2020-21
Many rookies go through a sophomore slump during their second season in the NHL. Hughes did not. He may have taken a step back defensively finishing with a minus-24 in the plus/minus column, but his offence definitely didn’t get stuck in neutral. If the season would have been the normal 82 games, he would have easily surpassed his previous year’s total of 53 points. No question about it.
Paired with veteran Travis Hamonic for most of the season, Hughes was not sheltered from tough defensive minutes. In fact, head coach Travis Green regularly used them as a matchup pair against other teams’ top lines. He struggled at times to contain the likes of Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews but managed to control his Corsi-for (CF%) numbers to stay above 50 percent, ending the season with a 50.4 CF% all while averaging 22:48 of ice time.
Hughes Hits 100 Points After Signing Long-Term With the Canucks
After a long-drawn-out contract negotiation during the summer, the Canucks finally signed Hughes to a long-term deal that will keep him in Vancouver until the end of the 2026-27 season. Good thing too, because the defence core revolves around the dynamic and play-driving attributes of the 22-year-old. Without him, they look like a chicken with their head cut off. Just watch the game against the Buffalo Sabres on Oct.19, 2021 if you want a recent example. To say it was a mess would be a massive understatement.
Hughes drives play from the defensive zone with his skating, hockey IQ, and tremendous first pass. He rarely makes a bad one, and they’re almost always tape-to-tape. His edgework and puck control are also up there with the best the league has to offer. All in all, he is worth every penny of the $7.85 million in average annual value (AAV) the Canucks gave him in the offseason and will be a steal of a contract when he hits his prime in the NHL.
When you thought Hughes couldn’t hit any more firsts, he almost had his first 30-minute game as an NHL defenceman when he played a career-high 29:09 against the Detroit Red Wings this past week. He then hit the vaunted 100-point milestone against the Chicago Blackhawks on Oct. 21, 2021 when he assisted on Tanner Pearson’s second-period goal. After yet another point against the Seattle Kraken in their inaugural home opener, he now has 101 points in 134 games. The next milestone, 100 assists, which he probably will hit before the calendar flips over to 2022.
Needless to say, Hughes is well on his way to becoming the best defenceman the Canucks have ever had. No disrespect to Edler, Mattias Ohlund, Jyrki Lumme, and Kevin Bieksa, but his talent is at another level. Before the 2021-22 season comes to a close, he might be closing in on the top ten in defence scoring, and that is just insane for a guy that just turned 22 and hasn’t even entered his physical prime yet.
Matthew Zator is a THW freelance writer, media editor, and scout who lives and breathes Vancouver Canucks hockey, the NHL Draft, and prospects in general. He loves talking about young players and their potential. Matthew is a must-read for Canucks fans and fans of the NHL Draft and its prospects. For interview requests or content information, you can follow Matthew through his social media accounts which are listed under his photo at the conclusion of articles like this one about Tyler Motte.