DALLAS, TX -- No one should doubt that former USA Hockey National Team Development Program defenseman Quinn Hughes should be considered one of the top ranked prospects in the upcoming NHL Entry Draft.
Quinn Hughes won a Bronze Medal with each of the U.S. Under-20 team and the U.S. team at the World Championships. Hughes was a Big 10 All-Rookie and All-Second Team selection. Courtesy Photo / Michigan Photography
Hughes was ranked sixth among North American Skaters for the Draft, which begins with the first round on June 22.
However, if one more bit of evidence is needed, consider this: the recent University of Michigan Wolverine was the onlynon-NHL player on the roster for the recent 2018 IIHF World Championships in Denmark.
And Hughes has a bronze medal to prove it.
“I was very excited, obviously,” said Hughes. “I went in there and I wasn’t sure what to expect or what my role was going to be but at the end of the day I got ice time and I ended up on the second power play. I think it was a great experience for me and the coaching staff did an awesome job with me and brought me along nicely.”
Among the impressive collection of talent on the USA World Championship roster were
Championship Tournament MVP Patrick Kane (Chicago Blackhawks), Cam Atkinson (Columbus Blue Jackets), Johnny Gaudreau (Calgary Flames) and Dylan Larkin (Detroit Red Wings).
Like Hughes, teammates Will Butcher (New Jersey Devils), Connor Murphy (Chicago Blackhawks) Kane and Larkin were all products of USA Hockey’s National Development Program.
“My teammates were awesome, too. They knew I was the young guy and they always helped me out and did a great job with me as well,” Hughes added. “I learned a lot from those guys. It was an unbelievable experience; especially to win bronze.”
Playing in world competition tournaments was not an entirely new experience for Hughes as he was a member of USA Hockey’s U17 team in 2015-16, U18 team in 2016-17 and played in the U20 World Junior Championship as well.
Hughes reflected on his development as a member of the U.S. NTDP.
“The program is a really great place. If you really want to be a player there is no better place,” said Hughes. “I had a great two years there and we had a good group of guys. We trained and practiced every day and there is not really a place that is any better.”
During his second season at the U.S. NTDP, Hughes and his team got more than a taste of collegiate hockey as the squad played a number of games against college teams.
“During my U18 year, we probably played 20 college games and coming to college, I didn’t notice any difference at all,” Hughes said.
Hughes carried that experience to the University of Michigan this past season and played a key role in the Wolverines advancing to the NCAA championship semifinals.
“It was fun to play teams like Penn State and Minnesota and go to their buildings and they are packed,” Hughes said. “[The Big 10] was a great league and we had three teams go to the [Frozen] Four. That shows how good the league is and it was a challenge. We had to bring our ‘A’ game every day.”
Throughout his development, Hughes believes the opportunity to learn and improve is constant and the opportunity to advance to the highest level is a source of motivation.
“You are learning new things all the time and I think that is what makes everyone better. It could be something small every single day and that is how you get better,” said the 18-year-old Hughes.
While Hughes may have thought he had a special level of talent as he began his U17 season, he tempered that thought processes into a source of motivation.
“I knew there was still a lot of work to be done and I kept my foot on the pedal. I think it was good to use it as motivation and be excited about the future,” Hughes said.
Following a whirlwind spring of hockey from the NCAA to the World Championship, Hughes attended the NHL Combine and is preparing for the draft in Dallas.
“Everyone is really excited. My family and I have been working toward this for a long time,” Hughes added. “It should be an exciting weekend and an exciting time.”
No doubt about it.
Follow Jim Smith on Twitter @BlueLineNotes.
Quinn Hughes is the sixth-ranked North American Skater for the NHL Draft this year. Courtesy Photo / Michigan Photography