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21 Days of 2021 NHL Draft Prospects: #20 — Luke Hughes

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The third and final Hughes brother is draft-eligible in 2021.

Rena Laverty - USNTDP
Luke Hughes Fast Stats 2019-20
Lauren Kelly

The expectations are extremely high, but older brothers and NHL players Quinn and Jack claim that Luke is the best Hughes brother. He is also the tallest of the three, and a defenseman like Quinn. And while he may not go as high in the draft as either of them, Luke is undoubtedly a top tier first round talent for 2021.

Hughes wasn’t always patrolling the blueline though. He played forward until he was twelve years old, deciding to switch after seeing how changing positions had worked for Quinn. Just like his older brother, the change has paid dividends for him.

Born a week before the cutoff date for the NHL draft, Hughes is one of the youngest players eligible for 2021. Though he was drafted into the Ontario Hockey League, Hughes will once again follow his oldest brother’s path and play NCAA hockey at the University of Michigan in 2021.

If Corson Ceulemans can be compared to Cale Makar, is Luke the next Quinn? Perhaps that’s too close a comparison, but both Hughes defensemen are smooth skaters with exceptional vision and offensive instincts.

Hughes (Luke, that is) is an excellent puck-rusher. His fluid stride and shifty edgework allow him to evade opponents as he starts up the ice with the puck. He can be seen as the ‘fourth’ forward on the ice, unafraid to jump up into the play or play deep in the offensive zone to create scoring chances.

Hughes shows remarkable poise with the puck at his age, and won’t be pressured into turnovers by opponents. He sees the ice extremely well and is an excellent puck distributor and playmaker. He displays excellent lateral mobility when walking the blueline and can send seeing-eye shots from the point.

In the defensive zone, Hughes uses his skating to retrieve dumped-in pucks and turn the play back up the ice. His overall positioning in his own end is solid. Hughes uses his body to push players to the outsides and will battle with opponents in front of the net. Once one of the weaker aspects of his game, Hughes has shown growth with his play in the defensive zone with the national team this season and will only get better in his own end.

Like all prospects though, Hughes does have things to work on in order to fully round out his game. He could stand to build up his strength in order to be fully effective against tougher and stronger opponents in the NCAA. That in turn will make his shot more powerful. At the moment, it’s more precise than heavy but his release has looked a lot more dangerous this season.

Strengths: Vision, Skating, Positioning

To Improve: Shot, Strength

Quotables

A smooth-skating defenceman whose game is remarkably similar to that of older brother Quinn Hughes, the youngest Hughes is a dynamic playmaker who can generate offence while playing a sound role in his defensive zone. [Prospect Pipeline]

Luke has the ability to take over any game with his skillset and projects to be a top pairing defenseman at the OHL level with an ability to quarterback a powerplay but will need to continue honing his game on the defensive side of the puck to be an everyday reliable defender. [2019 Black Book]

The big thing that separates Luke from his peers, no surprise given his name, is his elite skating and edgework. The ability to create space for himself with the puck by turning on a dime, or with a quick first step makes him impossible to defend against. His vision and playmaking ability has already made him an offensive driver on the NTDP U17s, and has even shown more ability to shoot the puck than Quinn has to this point in his career. A Quinn Hughes that scores more points is a very exciting prospect. [SBN College Hockey]

Highlights

All statistics from Elite Prospects and USA Hockey.