You have Quinn Hughes. You have Jack Hughes. But guess what? There’s another one.
Luke Hughes is their sizeable brother that played at the University of Michigan last year and is just yet another brother that is projected to go in the top-10 of an NHL Draft. He might not have the same outlook as Jack, or the same playmaking ability from the blue line as Quinn, but he certainly deserves to be picked with one of the first picks on July 23.
Whether it’s the Staals, the Stromes, or even the countless brothers that have played in the NHL together, none might be as highly touted as the Hughes and we shall see where they end up in their respective careers in a decade or so.
Family ties aside, Luke is going to be an interesting player to look out for, given that he’s actually been able to play some hockey during the pandemic.
What Scouts Are Saying
Hughes is most known for his skating. Almost every game that I tune in to, the first comment that I hear from the play by play and color guys is how dominant Hughes’ stride is. The young defenseman has a silky smooth stride and possesses elite edges. I know that “silky smooth” can be overused quite a bit in scouting reports, but Hughes does have a silky smooth stride. Every glide is well-timed. The extension is not too long and the recovery is exactly where you want it. Not too far out from the torso. With Hughes’ edge work, it allows him to be more spontaneous and quick with the puck than most. We see that quite a bit with his transitional play and defensive zone puck possession. Instead of forcing the puck into tight spots and well-defended lanes, Hughes will opt to re-group and drop back. Sometimes the final decision is to try that same lane once more as the defenders have backed off and abandoned the pressure and/or sometimes it provides Hughes with the ability to pivot, shift gears and find a different lane/avenue to utilize. In order to be that decisive with the puck, you need strong edges to shift or turn away from danger. It also is an indicator of how robust his transitional play is. Players don’t get rewarded for transitional fails. They get rewarded for successful transitions. With the ability to drop back and re-define the plan of attack, the probability of a successful transition is much higher than trying to push through danger.
side from Hughes’ skating, my second favorite attribute about the left-handed defenseman is his soft hands. Soft hands are always a great thing to have when you are distributing the puck, shifting around an attacker with the puck or trying to deliver a cross ice feed. While there are certainly moments where Hughes is more jumpy and a bit rough with his feeds, most of the time Hughes is delivering smooth feeds to teammates. In addition, his handy work also pays off when he takes the outside lane and shifts around an attacker while he is rushing up the ice. Hughes loves showing the leather when he is racing towards the slot, but has a man on him. He will shift the puck from left to right, evade the attacker and set up a pass to the slot. But, don’t forget how elite his passing ability is. Hughes can truly thread the needle with his smooth feeds.
You can definitely see some of Quinn in the young Luke Hughes. His stride may not be as smooth as the eldest Hughes, but he is definitely a top tier skater.— Stars n’ Stripes Hockey (@StarsStripesHKY) October 30, 2019
Here he does something Quinn could trademark, the one-man entry on the power play. #NTDP #GoBlue #Canucks pic.twitter.com/JYz2fb1zxD
Hughes is a smooth-skating defenseman with strong edgework and agility. He is a dynamic playmaker with elite vision who can create space for himself and make a quick pass to an open teammate. He is very good on the powerplay, and while he is more of a pass-first defenseman, he has shown the ability to shoot the puck. From last year to this season, Hughes is much better defensively and looks a lot stronger and confident in his own end.
Hughes ability to use his mobility in all directions along the blueline walk the line and penetrate the home plate as a shooter is intriguing but the value comes in when he uses his feet to draw attention and pull the game with him. This opens space to exploit and his passing ability is more than capable of doing so.
Hughes had a strong season, as a leading player for the U.S. NTDP, but a late-season injury kept him from playing at the U18 worlds. Hughes is a 6-foot-2 elite-skating defenseman with offensive ability, which is a highly appealing toolkit for an NHL projection. Like his brothers Jack and Quinn, Luke’s edgework is fantastic, showing great ability to elude checks. His skating and skill combination allow him to generate a lot of controlled exits and entries. His playmaking isn’t at the same level as his brothers, but he has enough skill and vision to be on an NHL power play and be a driver at the top level. The size and skating combination should allow him to make stops as a pro, but currently his D-zone coverage isn’t completely refined, as he needs to work on his gaps. He can be a bit risky and turnover prone with the puck, and managing that is a main area of concern with scouts. In a sentence, Hughes projects as a top-pair defenseman who can be on a power play and be elite in transition, but will have issues matching up versus top players.
Would He Fit In With The Wild?
An offense-first blueliner that can make plays and has some size to boot — the Wild organization and fans would be drooling at the sight of him on the ice. A perfect replacement for Ryan Suter once he turns old and grey in a year or two, Hughes would give that offense that is surely lacking from the forwards on this team. Keeping the waves of pressure on-going and keeping the transition into the offensive zone simple.
He would seem like the perfect fit if the Wild held a top-10 pick in this year’s draft, but they’re stuck towards the bottom because they were just too good last season.
Could The Wild Get Him?
Barring any insane fall through the draft, Hughes will likely be a top-10 pick and is surely a candidate to be taken in the first five. Which means — given that the Wild currently hold the 21st and 25th overall selections — there is really no way that this defenseman will end up in Minnesota.
However nice it would be, and certainly a commonality between taking Marco Rossi ninth overall last year, well below where he was expected to be taken, it seems like a steep drop for such a highly regarded prospect.
A Minnesota Relation
Since the Minnesota Wild are essentially built on defensively-responsible blueliners, Hughes’ ability to bring an incredible amount of offensive skill and skating ability only reminds me of one clear former Minnesota defenseman: Brent Burns.
As much as it might pain some to remember Burns and what he could have been on the blue line during the frustrating years of mediocrity, this is an apt comparison. Through his whole career the current San Jose Sharks back has sacrificed defense for offense and has the shot volume and skating ability (maybe not now in his elder years) to come out as a net-positive player.
I might be totally off, since comparisons are weird.
2021 NHL Draft Board
- Owen Power — D, University of Michigan (NCAA)
- Matthew Beniers — C, University of Michigan (NCAA)
- Brandt Clarke — D, HC Nove Zamky (Slovenia)
- Luke Hughes — D, University of Michigan (NCAA)