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The Canucks have signed their 2018 1st round pick. Where do they go from here?

2018 NHL Draft - Portraits Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

In a move that was probably the least surprising thing the Vancouver Canucks did all season, this weekend they announced that they had agreed to terms with Quinn Hughes. Hughes, drafted 7th overall in 2018 by the Canucks saw his University of Michigan Wolverines bow out of the NCAA Playoffs on Saturday, and the speculation all season was that Hughes would sign once his season was complete. He didn’t play in that game after taking a puck off the skate in their Friday night game.

First he’ll need to have a meeting with the Canucks medical staff.

I know, right?

At this time they’ll determine how severe the injury is and then that will give us a timeline as to when we see him in the lineup for the first time. I would say it’s a 99% sure thing he is not in on Wednesday as the Canucks host the Rangers and a coin flip as far as Friday against New Jersey. The Canucks have 13 games remaining in the season, and there’s likely going to be an effort by the Canucks to make sure he doesn’t go over his 11 game threshold and require them to protect him when it comes time for Seattle to do their expansion draft. It’s more likely he makes debut on the road when the Canucks head down to Dallas on Sunday and then the next night in Chicago. Then again I could also see them waiting until next Wednesday and the home game against Ottawa for his debut.

As far as the contract goes, it’s the standard entry level deal for 3 years, but he does have bonuses worked in.

While the Canucks are eager to see how another strong season in the NCAA has helped his development, they’re not going to add to the tremendous pressure Hughes finds himself in as he arrives. The hopes and expectations of this franchise are weighing on him and the likes of Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser and Bo Horvat, and given the atrocious state of affairs on the Canucks blueline, to say that Canucks supporters view him as a saviour of sorts is a mild understatement.

The important thing to remember about Hughes is: Temper your expectations. We had high hopes for Elias Pettersson and while for a time it looked like he was actually frighteningly better than we had even hoped, his recent play has leveled off a bit to where he’s right about where prospect experts had him pinned: an elite level scorer. What’s been a bonus is his incredible play away from the puck.

With Hughes, he’s not expected to be a Rod Langway-type d-man but he is an elite level offensive, puck moving kind of rear guard the Canucks quite simply have never had on their roster. You should be aware he’ll need to grow into the NHL and adapt his game to the increased speed and size he saw in the NCAA. He’s also not going to put up Paul Coffey numbers in his rookie year. Once you accept these things, the last few games this season and what he puts up next year should be entertaining as hell.

So Hughes will undergo an MRI today on his ankle (it should be noted that he was still limping when he arrived in Vancouver yesterday) and then determine a time frame for practicing with the team and getting into the lineup. It’s clear they’re going to take their time. After all, it’s not like they’re in a playoff race or anything.

As far as a pairing, it’s probably going to be Troy Stecher who lines up along side Hughes, at least until Christopher Tanev is healthy enough to return to the lineup. It wouldn’t make any sense to try and force him to play on the wrong side out of the gate, and I don’t see them doing that with Alexander Edler.

One thing to watch when he does arrive is the woeful Canucks PP and what impact he has on that. Hughes’ skating and playmaking ability are really brought to the forefront on the man advantage, and if the Canucks can even get their PP running at the league average next season would be a massive improvement.

It’s been a rough season. Highs and lows, excitement brought on by the emergence of Pettersson and the unexpected inspiration from the play of Jacob Markstrom. That’s all been soured by the reality that this team still has a ton of work to do in order to become competitive again, and the focus in the off-season is seeing what Jim Benning and John Weisbrod can go to build a team around this exciting young core. Some of that will start now as the Canucks are actively looking to sign college free agents. After that, it’s making some trades in the off-season and what they can do at the draft, with the increased focus of being the hosts this year.

The expectations are high. As long as those don’t include the Canucks suddenly returning to their 2011 form, things should start progressing forward next year, but a lot has to happen to ensure that. In the meantime, enjoy him. This is hopefully going to be like what we felt when we saw EP40 rip that first goal. Uncharted territory can be a blast.