Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the daily column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day I will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2021 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow me on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Hockey Prospects is your new headquarters for everything “NHL Draft”! We have a complete listing of our draft articles here. Today we bring you our Luke Hughes Scouting Report.
After older brothers Jack Hughes (1st), and Quinn Hughes (7th), were top 10 picks in the NHL Draft; younger brother Luke Hughes is looking to extend the family dynasty in 2021. The 17-year-old spent the season with the US National Team Development Program, putting up six goals and 28 assists for 34 points in 38 games. He was headed to the Under-18 World Championships, but a late season injury will keep him out of the tourney. Last season, Hughes put up seven goals and 21 assists for 28 points in 41 games with the Under-17s. He also added a goal and three assists in six games at the Under-17 World Hockey Challenge.
Like his brother Quinn, Luke Hughes is committed to playing for the Michigan Wolverines next season. Should he change his mind and opt to go the CHL route, his rights are owned by the Saginaw Spirit. They took a flyer on him with a 14th round pick, 281st overall in the 2019 OHL Priority Draft. Hughes is one of the younger players in this draft, as if he were born just six days later, he would be eligible for the 2022 NHL Draft.
Luke Hughes Scouting Report
Defense — shoots Left
Born September 9th, 2003 — Canton, Michigan
Height 6’2″ — Weight 176 lbs [188 cm / 80 kg]
Hughes is taller than his brothers but maintains a similar explosive skating ability. He is very fast in both directions allowing him to push the play offensively and still get back to the defensive end of the ice. Hughes has very good acceleration in both directions as well as an excellent first step. His pivots are smooth and quick. This allows him to transition quickly from defence to offence, and vice-versa. His agility and edgework are also excellent. Hughes can avoid forecheckers and get past defenders as he skates the puck out of the defensive zone and up the ice. His ability to walk the line opens up passing and shooting lanes in the offensive end. Hughes still needs to put more muscle on his body though. Added core strength would help him to win battles on the boards as well as be stronger on the puck going forward.
Hughes has the ability to run the power play from the point. With his soft hands, he maintains good puck control. His quick feet and ability to toe-drag with the puck help him to make quick moves that open up passing and shooting lanes. He has good vision and when he gets the opportunity he can find an open teammate to set up a scoring chance. His ability to control the play and speed things up or slow them down allows his teammates time to get open. Hughes also has a very good slap shot and one-timer. He does a good job of moving his feet and finding open space without the puck, allowing him to find shooting lanes and get the puck on the net. Hughes understands how to keep the puck low and on the net, allowing teammates to get rebounds and deflections.
Hughes also has a good wrist shot and quick release. He can sneak in from the line and let that shot go from the top of the face-off circle. He also uses it effectively as a trailer on the rush. Hughes can avoid forecheckers and skate the puck out of the defensive zone. He also makes a good first pass to get the puck up to the forwards. He can also make the long breakaway pass if a forward is free. Hughes can also carry the puck through the neutral zone and create effective zone entries. However, he does not do this as often as his brother Quinn, preferring to move the puck up the ice and play the role of the trailer.
Hughes needs some work in the defensive end of the ice. He can be too aggressive looking for a big hit or chasing after the puck and this can get him out of position. Too much focus on the puck can also lead to him losing his man. He needs to learn to stay between the puck and the net, cutting down passing and shooting lanes. His excellent skating allows him to maintain good gap control, but he can be caught fishing for the puck and beaten in one-on-one situations. These are things that can be coached out of him in time though. Hughes is good at retrieving dump-ins and getting to loose pucks though. His ability to transition the puck up the ice and push the offence is his best defensive trait. It helps to keep the puck out of his defensive zone and keeps his team in possession.
Projection and Comparison
Hughes could become a number one defenceman in the NHL if he reaches his full potential. One cannot teach his level of skating and offensive skills, however, he will need to work on his defensive game in order to truly take on the type of minutes that a franchise defender does. Defence can be learned though. It will take some time before Hughes is NHL ready. He is very young and could use a year or two of NCAA hockey. Hughes game is reminiscent of Tyson Barrie, however this is a stylistic comparison only and not one based on skill and ability.
The following is a compilation of some of the highlight packages and features of Luke Hughes that are available on youtube.
Check back tomorrow for the next prospect on our draft board.
Luke Hughes Scouting Report Main Photo: