Now with the draft completed, we see the Canucks #7 pick, Defence Quinton Hughes. I won’t bother writing the stats, playing history, the typical Vancouver media debate, good pick, bad pick and like the look on the one Montreal Canadians fans face, “what the heck” pick. Stats and drafted player bio’s will be covered ad nauseam till camp starts.
Assuming Quinton Hughes has the skills as advertised, what does this do to the Canucks training camp this year. Hughes is a little small, but is described as a fireplug which means if he can gain some muscle and strength he can compete at this level. With Olli Juolevi losing critical weight training time due to back surgery the door is open for Hughes to vault over Juolevi and grab a spot on defence.
The current defence looks like this,
Biega, Del Zotto, Edler, Gudbranson, Hutton, Pouliot, Stecher, Tanev. I will add to this list Ashton Sautner, who showed very well in the games he played up with the Canucks in 2017. Ashton played with confidence, did not look out of place, played well, in fact in the limited number of games, combined with a good camp and preseason games, Sautner could easily vault Pouliot, essentially making the newly signed Pouliot a depth player similar to Biega. That makes ten players, eleven including Hughes, for 6 starting spots.
Assuming no trades or moves in July, Del Zotto, Edler, Gudbranson, Tanev, Stecher and ???. So the reality is one spot open for Juolevi, Hughes and let’s not forget Hutton, he is still in this mix.
Looking at these numbers and development positions, it is easy to believe one or even two moves being made to create the needed development room. Of course the equally likely scenario is no trades are made, Juolevi will be given every opportunity to make the team and Hutton will sit, waiting for opportunity. Also, if Travis Green continues in what appears to be his coaching pattern, Juolevi will play and then sit, watching games and learning dividing time with Hutton, again assuming he starts and is not sent to the AHL.
Hughes will start in Utica, get needed playing time, and NHL/AHL coaching. If Tanev can bounce back, remain healthy, his trade value will return and the Canucks will get better value than moving him now. Couple that with Hanifin now off the trading block, the urgency of moving Tanev has waned. That is unless the Leafs come calling, then who knows. When or if Tanev is moved, a spot will open for Hughes, if he plays well enough at the AHL level.
Fans and media will call for the continued youth movement, but in reality, icing a defence with Juolevi, Hughes and Hutton will simply not be good for Goalie development, whether it is Markstrom, Nilsson, and specifically Demko assuming he plays more NHL games this year or shows enough game to make the team out of camp making Nilsson expendable. There has to be some defence in front to maintain the needed compete level for this team.
Lastly on Hughes, looking back to Tanev’s first few season, he took tremendous hits until he learned to avoid and absorb. The punishment took in those seasons may explain his trouble staying healthy now. For this team to continue the rebuild, they cannot afford a night after night punishing forecheck when young players, including Hughes, are learning their trade. Players must be strong, smart enough to survive this and that only comes with experience.