At just 17 years of age, Quinn Hughes came into his freshman season as the youngest player in college hockey. A consensus top 10 NHL prospect, Hughes has always played against older kids. “Age is just another number that doesn’t really matter,” according to Hughes, who embraced the opportunity to be surrounded by older teammates and see how they approached the game. Some of those players include Tony Calderone, who signed with the Dallas Stars, and Edmonton Oilers-bound Cooper Marody. However, year one in Ann Arbor brought many new learning opportunities for the freshman defenseman off the ice, as Hughes had to manage his new role as a student-athlete.“At Michigan it’s just as competitive on the ice as it is in the classroom,”said Hughes. He not only received high level coaching, but also high level teaching, which kept him locked in both mentally and physically into all aspects of college life. It was that competition and focus which sparked a drive and determination that resulted in constant improvement and a key role in Michigan’s Frozen Four appearance.
The Michigan Wolverines’ Hockey Team was picked to finish 6th out of 7 teams in the preseason Big Ten polls, something that was, "stressed in a locker room of guys that felt we weren’t receiving enough credit". While Quinn Hughes was representing the USA at the World Junior Championships in early January, Michigan was narrowly swept at Notre Dame, falling to a record of 8-10-2. The Wolverines appeared to be an average college hockey team. But lessons learned from early failures would be crucial to the development of a young team gearing up for a 2nd half push. Hughes returned to Ann Arbor with a bronze medal to show for his participation in the 2018 World Junior Championships and a unique hockey experience to lean on after being surrounded in a new environment and playing against top competition from around the world. The next weekend in Minnesota was arguably the turning point of the season. Michigan earned its first sweep of the Golden Gophers since 1977 and everyone on the team was fully bought into first-year coach Mel Pearson’s system. As Hughes said, “it was so much fun to go streaking with these boys”. The Wolverines streaked to a 14-5-1 finish that started in Minneapolis and would bring them back to the Twin Cities for the Frozen Four. The rematch against Notre Dame ended in heartbreaking fashion in a last second loss to end national championship hopes in 2018. However, with lots to be proud of and even more to look forward to, Quinn Hughes’ path to the NHL is laying in front of him.
Upon returning from Denmark, Hughes will showcase his skills at the NHL Combine in Buffalo, from May 27 to June 2 before attending the NHL Draft on June 22 in Dallas. For a player who grew up in a hockey family and, “didn’t think of a life not playing hockey”, this will be the stepping stone to eventually realizing his dream. The 18 year-old defenseman, viewed as a top 10 prospect by most pro scouts, can lean on a long list of outstanding accomplishments that include 5 goals and 24 assists as a freshman at Michigan, a spot on the All-CHN Rookie Team, honors as 2nd Team All-Big Ten and Big Ten All-Freshman Team, and two seasons of competition for the United States National Team Development Program. Hughes also hopes that his passion for the game and the care he possesses for his teammates stands out as well to NHL GMs. “I’m always gonna do my thing and I’m excited to see what team picks me.”
As Quinn Hughes prepares for his bright future, he will carry his thankfulness and pride in the people he represents, as well as the lessons his family first taught him about hockey, whether that is skating for the USA, an NHL team, or Michigan. After just one season in Ann Arbor, Hughes already sees Michigan as a special place. “There are so many good and smart people that you can learn so much from. Coaches, teammates, and classmates make this place so special.” Everyone in Michigan has had the chance to see Hughes compete. Now, the rest of the world will now get to see him play the game he loves, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.