I’m sure all of you know by now that rookie sensation Quinn Hughes has not been selected to join Elias Pettersson in representing the Vancouver Canucks at the 2020 NHL All-Star Game in St. Louis. Twitter went ablaze when the news came down that Mark Giordano of the Calgary Flames was the defenseman selected to the Pacific Division roster over him. Despite showing poise beyond his years and elite skills that rival the best in the game, the NHL did not feel that his performance so far this season warranted a spot amongst the brightest stars in the league.
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This is one of the times where the NHL has got it wrong. From the moment Hughes entered the league in the waning moments of the 2018-19 season he has stood out as a special player. Fast forward to this season, and he has become a mainstay on the Canucks blueline and has even taken over the first unit power play duties from former staple Alex Edler. At 20-years-old he has become a core piece as well as a top defenceman not only on the Canucks but in the NHL as a whole. With that said, here are three reasons why he should be recognized as an All-Star in 2020.
1. Hughes is Exciting and Dynamic
For a league that markets itself to be fast, exciting and creative, they have a weird way of showing it. The All-Star Game is always advertised as a showcase of the NHL’s most exciting players. But when it comes down to choosing who is selected, they decided to gloss over two of the most exciting young defensemen in the league right now in Hughes and Cale Makar of the Colorado Avalanche.
Hughes has been noticeable in almost every game he has played this season from his quick breakouts to his supreme edgework in both zones. He passes the puck with speed and precision and runs the power play like an elite quarterback runs his offence. He also has a wicked one-timer to boot. You could just watch him skate and be excited. Now, what NHL fan wouldn’t want to see that in a three-on-three tournament?
2. Hughes is Outperforming Top Defencemen
In addition to the excitement factor, Hughes is outperforming many of the top defencemen in the game. He currently has more points than perennial all-stars Drew Doughty, Brent Burns, P.K. Subban, Kris Letang and reigning Norris Trophy winner Mark Giordano. He also has the same amount of points as Erik Karlsson, who currently leads the Pacific Division in that category.
Giordano, who was selected, has 19 points compared to Hughes’ 28. That alone should give him the edge for a selection. But let’s go a little bit deeper and look at the analytics. When it comes to Corsi-for, Hughes has a 53.2 rating compared to Giordano’s 50.8. Now, Giordano probably has tougher matchups than Hughes, but those stats do mean that the Canucks control play more often when he is on the ice, and that should count for something.
3. Hughes Generates Points & Chances
Every time Hughes touches the puck, something special could happen, as he plays with a confidence rarely seen in a young defenceman. His passes seem to always be on the tape and his impact is felt almost every shift. As soon as he joined the Canucks’ defence core, it seemed to transform into an offensive threat. That’s the definition of an all-star, a player who makes his team better.
In addition to improving the defensive unit’s five-on-five play, he also made the power play more of a threat. His quick feet combined with his elite vision and hockey IQ has created a lot more chances that were not there when Edler manned the point. He also has a much better one-timer, which is surprising considering that was a supposed weakness when he was drafted.
Of Hughes’ 28 points, 15 of them have been generated with the man advantage. He has basically transformed the power play from mediocre to elite. Now if assistant coach Newell Brown would just let him rush the puck into the zone instead of dropping it back, the sky’s the limit. The bottom line is, he has been a major factor on the backend for the Canucks this season.
Of all the additions, Hughes has made the biggest impact in making the Canucks a playoff contender once again. Add in the fact that he could win the Calder Trophy while shattering Pettersson’s rookie totals from last season as a defenceman is a feat in itself. For those reasons and more, he deserves a spot in the All-Star Game.
So if the NHL is not going to give him one, I guess we have to do it for them. So let’s vote on Jan 1 in the Last Men In vote and send Hughes to his rightful place amongst the stars in St. Louis on Jan 25.
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.