Interview: NHL Star Quinn Hughes Is Ready to Lead the Vancouver Canucks

Interview: NHL Star Quinn Hughes Is Ready to Lead the Vancouver Canucks

No member of the Vancouver Canucks has ever won the Norris Trophy – given to the NHL’s top defenseman. However, new Vancouver captain Quinn Hughes has a legitimate shot at ending that drought if he hits his full potential as a hockey player.

Last season, the smooth-skating American became the fastest NHL defenseman in history to record 200 career assists (263 games), outpacing Hockey Hall of Famers like Brian Leetch (264 games) and Bobby Orr (271 games). Hughes, 23, finished with 76 points in 78 games to break his own single-season Canucks record for defensemen.

Quinn Hughes Is Aiming for the NHL Playoffs

This season, the former University of Michigan ace’s priority is to help the Canucks return to the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since 2020

Fellow superstar Elias Pettersson, who led Vancouver in scoring with 102 points last year, backed the club’s choice of Hughes as the captain: “Fantastic! He’s been taking steps every year, and this is also a big step for him. I think he’s more than ready.”

For This Star, NHL Hockey Is a Family Affair

Hughes (drafted seventh overall in 2018) was named the 15th captain in Canucks history. He won’t be the only member of his family under the spotlight this season. His two younger brothers are set to shine with the New Jersey Devils.

Center Jack Hughes (drafted first overall in 2019) is projected to crack the 100-point barrier this year after totaling 99 points last year. Defenseman Luke Hughes (drafted fourth overall in 2021) could vie with Chicago’s Connor Bedard for rookie of the year honors. It’s an exciting time.

As articulate off the ice as he is skillful on it, Quinn Hughes opened up on multiple topics prior to the 2023-24 NHL season. (Catch all the action on DIRECTV.)

Defense Wins Championships

Have you felt the need to make changes with your new role as the captain?

I’m always going to be who I am. I think that’s a big reason why they wanted to go with me. They know that I’m not going to try to be someone I’m not. That just wouldn’t come out authentic. For me, I just feel like nothing’s changed.

To be honest with you, I’m so concerned with having a good start to the year and being ready to go. Whether I was wearing the “C” or not, I still would have tried to push guys up the mountain here and make sure things are competitive and everyone’s dialed in.

The Canucks allowed 298 goals last season, ranking 23rd out of 32 NHL teams. How important is it to tighten up defensively?

It’s going to be really important. We have a great goaltender [in Thatcher Demko], one of the best in the league. We’ve just got to try to help him and give up shots where he doesn’t have to make incredible saves.

What will it mean to have Filip Hronek, who was named Best Defenseman at the 2019 IIHF World Championship, in the lineup for a full season?

We haven’t even seen him that much. He only played four games with us last year [after being acquired from Detroit]. But he’s still a really, really good player, and we’re going to need him.

A guy like that can do it all. He can chip in offensively and be solid defensively and take up big minutes. So it’s not all going to be on me, it’ll be on him too. He’s going to be very impactful for this team.

Setting the Pace as the Canucks Captain

You led the Canucks with an average of 25:39 in ice time per game last season. How essential will communicating with coach Rick Tocchet about managing your rest time and days off be this year?

I’m not going to have to tell him to have days off. I had so many days off last year, and it was a big reason why I was able to bounce back every other night, feel good and have energy. You’ll see it throughout the year.

[Tocchet] knows what he’s doing. He played, so he gets it. He wants us to get our feet up, eat healthy, get fluids, and know exactly what we’re doing. It’s on us to take advantage of the off-days mentally and physically and then be ready.

Looking around the NHL, who are some other captains you admire or model yourself on?

It’s easy to say guys like [Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney] Crosby, just from watching afar. But the easy ones for me are like “Larks” [Detroit Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin] and [Ottawa Senators captain] Brady [Tkachuk] — guys that I trained with.

I talk to Brady probably every other day. And I see Larks every day in the summer. Those are probably the two guys that I would lean on the most.

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