Sooner or later, Quinn Hughes is going to break records.
Bruce Boudreau believes that’s a safe bet, and he should know.
The Vancouver Canucks’ bench boss has guided prolific point-producing defensemen like Mike Green, Sami Vatanen, Ryan Suter and Matt Dumba, and has seen what it takes to excel. But he’s never seen anything quite like the nimble, elusive and pinpoint-passing Hughes.
“The best first pass, and it’s always on the tape,” Boudreau said Wednesday. “His evasiveness from him is real good and the smoothness in which he gets away from players I find amazing. He doesn’t look like he’s exerting himself and the next thing you know he makes that pass that makes him special.
“He’s going to be here for a long time. Records are going to be broken. I’m not going to tell him to jump into the play more because the No.1 thing right now — and Quinn knows it — is winning.”
Hughes has production plateaus he’d like to reach, but hasn’t spoken of them because to be regarded as an elite defenseman also means being good without the puck.
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Hughes, 22, has already eclipsed the 50-point plateau for the second time in his three seasons with 55 points (6-49) in his 68 games. He’s within striking range of two long-standing franchise marks for points and assists by a defenseman in a single season.
Hughes has eight games to amass nine points to better Doug Lidster’s team standard of 63 points (12-51) set in the 1986-87 season. And he needs seven assists to pass a record 55 established in the 1976-77 season by Dennis Kearns.
What could hold Hughes back is his health, and certainly not his heart.
I have missed two games last week with a bug circulating among the players. A nagging sore throat and hoarse tone sound like the marks might be harder to attain. He had gone pointless in five games before an assist and overtime winner Tuesday.
Boudreau believes there’s untapped goal potential in Hughes, especially with the way today’s game is played. Whether it’s joining the rush or pinching to shoot successfully from sharp angles, there’s potential for Hughes to get more goals.
“Eventually, I think there is,” said Boudreau. “Good teams have four guys in the play all the time and they outnumber teams down low.”
Defense partner Luke Schenn believes what sets Hughes apart is skill, will and especially confidence. He saw it in a late-season pairing with the rookie in 2018-19.
“He felt so calm and you look over at him and it’s kind of like wondering if he’s even worried about the moment, or the pressure on him as a first-round pick that’s highly touted coming out of college,” recalled Schenn. “He has such poise and composure that not a lot of guys have.”
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