The Vancouver Canucks newest defenceman knows there are some high expectations as he enters his pro-hockey career.
But right now, 19-year-old Quinn Hughes just wants to get back on the ice.
“I think for me, I’ve just kind of got to get my feet wet here and figure it out for myself, what I can do, what I can’t do and try to play my game,” Hughes told reporters on Wednesday.
“I don’t need to be a hero or anything like that. There are a lot of good players here so I’m just going to try to get them the puck.”
The seventh-overall pick at last year’s draft still needs medical staff to give him the all-clear before he’ll be able to once again lace up his skates.
Hughes blocked a shot during a playoff battle between his University of Michigan Wolverines and the University of Minnesota on Friday, leaving him with an ankle injury.
Michigan was bounced from the NCAA playoffs on Saturday.
On Sunday, Hughes signed his first-ever pro-hockey contract in his dad’s office, flanked by his younger brothers Luke and Jack – a top prospect for this year’s draft.
Then it was off to Vancouver, where Hughes had an MRI on Wednesday and was “really anxious” to get on the ice with his new teammates.
“I asked if I could skate this morning and they told me they wanted to wait for the MRI report,” Hughes said, disappointment obvious in his voice.
Canucks coach Travis Green said the MRI results weren’t ready after Wednesday’s morning skate.
“As soon as he’s healthy and ready to go, he’ll play,” Green said. “We’ll just get him on the ice, find out how his foot is and take it from there.”
Hockey fans in Vancouver have been impatiently waiting for a chance to see Hughes in a Canucks uniform. There was talk of the teen turning pro last fall, but he opted instead to play a second season of college hockey in Michigan.
“I think it was really good for me, not just on the ice but off the ice as well, maturity, getting stronger and heavier as well. I think my game has gotten better, too,” Hughes said.
“I feel pretty comfortable right now. I like where my game’s at, I’m pretty confident. I’ve given myself an extra six months to get better and stronger and more confident and everything like that.”
The 5-foot-10, 170-pound defenceman tallied five goals and 28 assists in 31 games for the Wolverines this season, but admitted he expected better results in the standings.
“It wasn’t the easiest year,” he said. “Obviously disappointing because I really wanted to do something there but it is what it is. I’m really proud of our team and everything that we did. We stuck together, even though it wasn’t easy.”
Times have been tough for the Canucks, too.
The team hovered around the playoff bar heading into the all-star break, but has since faltered. Vancouver boasted a 28-32-9 record going into Wednesday night’s contest with the New York Rangers.
Anyone expecting Hughes to come in and single-handedly turn the squad around should think twice, Green said.
“I’m not going to put sky-high expectations on this guy,” he said. “Is he going to be a power-play guy in the NHL? Yes he is. But I don’t need him to have expectations that he has to come in and run the power play and be this guy who’s just going to turn it around all of the sudden overnight.”
With Vancouver dropping to the third-last spot in the Western Conference, speculation has grown about where the Canucks will pick in this year’s draft and whether the team will be able to select Hughes’ brother, Jack.
The 17-year-old currently plays for the U.S. National Team Development Program and, with his older brother, helped the United States to a silver medal at the world junior hockey championship in January.
Quinn Hughes said the possibility of playing NHL hockey together isn’t something the brothers have discussed lately.
“It would be pretty cool playing with him in Vancouver. It’d be tremendous,” he said. “But at the end of the day, I think he just wants to play in the NHL and wherever he does, he’s going to have a good time.”