Quinn Hughes put off his pro career with the Canucks to head back to Michigan, where he wants to finish the job of winning an NCAA title with the Wolverines.
Quinn Hughes had a decision to make, and it wasn’t an easy one.
On the heels of being drafted with the No. 7 pick by the Vancouver Canucks in June, Hughes was left with the choice of signing an entry-level contract and going pro, or returning to the University of Michigan and vying for a national title with the Wolverines.
On Saturday morning, Hughes announced that he would be back in Ann Arbor, patrolling the blue line while clad in maize and blue and working toward a goal that he and his teammates fell short of in the 2017-18 season.
“I was heartbroken when we lost to Notre Dame in the Frozen Four last year,” he told MGoBlue.com. “I’ve never really been on a team that cares so much about each other, and I think that's a big reason why I'm coming back, because I love my teammates.”
The fleet-footed defenseman, the first of a rising family of soon-to-be NHL draft picks, didn’t come to a decision until Friday after plenty of mulling it over.
"There were positives and negatives both ways and, honestly, you can go back and forth all day,” he said. “That's what I've been doing for the last month. And I'd been thinking about this a lot over the last couple weeks, especially with contract talks heating up. … The Canucks had a big part in this decision, and I think they're happy with this decision, too. They agree with it. With everyone I spoke with, this made the most sense."
In delaying the start to his pro career, Hughes returns to a Michigan team with six other NHL draftees, including defensive partner Joseph Cecconi. As a freshman and the youngest player in NCAA hockey, Hughes notched five goals and 29 points in 37 games, setting a Wolverines record for most assists by a freshman (24) and was a Big Ten Rookie of the Year finalist. He was the lone collegian on Team USA for the IIHF World Championships in Denmark, playing 10 games and collecting a pair of assists.
At 5-foot-10, Hughes was part of a 2018 NHL draft that saw seven defensemen under six feet tall be selected in the first round, a trend of shorter, puck-moving blueliners.
“Getting a defenseman who can get the puck back and move it quickly out of your zone is paramount,” Vancouver GM Jim Benning said at the draft in Dallas. “[Hughes] can beat the first forechecker with speed and can get the puck through the neutral zone.”
Despite his quick feet, the Canucks are happy to have their up-and-coming star slow it down after a busy couple of months.
“We are in full support of Quinn's decision to continue his university career as he further develops as a hockey player and student,” Benning said. He now has an opportunity to be a leader at the University of Michigan and represent Team USA at the 2019 World Junior Championship in Vancouver. These are once-in-a-lifetime experiences that will only benefit Quinn's future career.”
When he does go pro, Hughes will join a slew of talented young players in the Canucks’ system, including recent first-rounders Bo Horvat, Jake Virtanen, Brock Boeser, Olli Juolevi and Elias Pettersson.
Until then, however, it’s back to title hunting in Ann Arbor.
“It was unfinished business, of course,” Hughes said. “I want to win. When I look back at my season last year, I had a great year. But I didn't win a national championship. So, that's my goal next year, and anything less than that would be disappointing.