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2020 Canucks Top 25 Under 25: #2 Quinn Hughes

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The 21-year-old defenceman flashed superstar potential as a rookie.

St Louis Blues v Vancouver Canucks - Game Three
Quinn Hughes #43 of the Vancouver Canucks stands on the ice during pregame before playing against the St. Louis Blues in Game Three of the Western Conference First Round of the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoff at Rogers Place on August 16, 2020 in Edmonton, Alberta.
Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images

Welcome to the Canucks Top 25 Under 25 Rankings, the series that makes you wish you were under 25 again. The list includes all players born after January 1st, 1996. Five staff writers (Beggsy, Westy, CanucksAbbyFan2, Trevor Connors, Markus Meyer) and one former staff writer (Daniel Gee, Elite Prospects) cast votes for the project.

The fortunes of the Vancouver Canucks franchise changed when Elias Pettersson stepped onto the ice in 2018.

That was the moment when the Canucks finally started to claw their way out of the NHL basement. They still missed the postseason in 2018-19, but Pettersson’s Calder Trophy winning campaign was a new beginning for the franchise.

When Quinn Hughes stepped onto the ice for the Canucks, the dynamic of this team changed once again.

Never, in 50 years, have the Canucks had a defenceman like Quinn Hughes.

Sippin’ on a 40 podcast host Kyle Bhawan called him the best defenceman in franchise history after he had played five NHL games. Some thought it was a ludicrous take, but who’s laughing now?

Some of you old heads might want to bring up the Alex Edler’s, Mattias Ohlund's and Jyrki Lumme’s of the world. That’s just plain disrespectful to Hughes.

If the coronavirus pandemic didn’t halt the 2019-20 season, Hughes wouldn’t have just shattered franchise records — he had a chance to set NHL records.

And just in case you were naive enough to think he wasn’t built for the playoffs, Hughes dazzled in the postseason with 16 points in 17 games, That was an NHL record for a rookie defenceman.

Despite the unanimous decision to have Hughes at #2 on our Top 25 Under 25 List, there’s certainly an argument to having him at #1 overall.

I originally did have Hughes at number one. My main argument was defencemen who impact the game at Hughes’ level are more of a rarity than impact centremen like Pettersson.

That being said, Pettersson is still the straw that stirs the matcha green smoothie in Vancouver, and his defensive acumen cannot be ignored either.

Watching Hughes and Pettersson battle it out for the team’s best player is going to be entertaining as hell over the next decade.

What’s Next for Hughes?

After a rock star-like first NHL season, followed by a solid run in the playoffs, more of the same is what’s next for Hughes.

The 21-year-old has the potential to become a perennial Norris Trophy candidate. He also has the potential to take home the scoring crown for NHL defenceman, and he could accomplish that as early as this season.

From January 1st onwards, only Roman Josi (26) had more points than Hughes (25). With every passing month of last season, Hughes’s offensive production was increasing.

This is an overused storyline, but I do think it will be interesting to see how Hughes responds to being checked with more frequency, especially in the playoffs. You could see in the Canucks series against Vegas that Hughes was bombarded by the Vegas attack, and he ended up being on the ice for seven even-strength goals in the first four games of the series.

However, as Hughes usually tends to do, he improved as the series progressed.

One of the lesser storylines to watch for Hughes will be how he performs with his new defence partner, Travis Hamonic.

“Last year, the goal for me was to play with Chris and I think we knew that throughout the summer,” Hughes said during media availability this week.

“This year, it’s not like that for me. Obviously, I had three or four different partners, and then with Travis coming in today...but at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. we have a lot of great players here, great options, and I’m excited that Travis is here now.”

There’s a lack of familiarity there, but that shouldn’t deter Hughes from dazzling viewers around the league with another all-star season.

Catch up on the rest of our 2020 edition of the Canucks Top 25 Under 25 list.