How does the projected sixth overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft fall to within the reach of the New York Islanders at eleven or twelve? Cause NHL GM’s aren’t mature enough.
When a top-tier defensive talent becomes available at number eleven, the New York Islanders will jump on University of Michigan defenseman Quinton Hughes. He’s maybe not the tallest but he’s got the skill where that isn’t an issue whatsoever.
With 29 points in 37 games this year for the University of Michigan and another 53 points in 65 games for the US National U18 Team last season, Hughes is an attractive prospect. He can skate, he can score, and he can see the game like few others. But still, his hight will play a factor in his draft status.
Small or undersized players with impressive skills are often overlooked for players with size and strength. It’s fair to say that the NHL like any sport has it’s “braun-y” aspects, but to focus solely on a player’s physical aspects is a disservice. GM’s do it all the time. And they’ll continue to do so.
What he is
"David Gregory – NHL Central Scouting:”Quintin is a smooth-skating, mobile defenseman who carries the puck very well and can transition from defense to offense with his feet or by making a pass. He reads the play very well and uses good positioning and the use of his angles to defend. Projects to be a top-four defenseman in today’s game because his skating and puck skills.”"
Skate, skate, skate. That’s Hughes defining attribute. In a game played on skates I’m led to believe this is an important skill to have. Combine that with an ability to see plays and make a great first pass and Hughes has the base to make a good run in the NHL.
"Mike Morreale – NHL.com -: “A prototypical offensive-defenseman, Hughes is a strong skater with good poise and puck skills. He can play at any pace and rarely is overpowered by bigger players. He’s also started to understand how to be more effective in all three zones.”"
Again, he can skate. And is a “prototypical offensive-defenseman”. Meaning he’s got some serious North-South game. If you don’t have an offensive-defenseman in today’s NHL you’re DOA.
Why he falls
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His size. It’s that simple. There’s no other way to put it, at 5’9” 170lbs Quinton Hughes will fall a few spots in the draft. GMs have yet to evolve to a point where they’ll take him in the top ten.
If you don’t believe me just look at the 2017 draft. Erik Brännström was a 5’9” defender who could skate and score and wasn’t physically overpowered.
"June 2017 – Brännström is a smallish but strong, fast skating and cerebral, possession-oriented blueliner. He doesn’t yield to physical play or opponent pressure, remaining highly aware and opportunistic on the ice regardless of the situation.-Kevin Wickersham"
Guess where he fell in the draft? He was picked 15th by the Vegas Golden Knights. Follow-up question. Guess who’s pick that was? That’s right, the 15th overall pick in the 2017 draft belonged to the New York Islanders.
Brännström put up six points in 35 games for HV71 in the SHL and another 23 points in 19 games at the U20 level the same season. Lias Anderson a player who played in the same league and on the same team as Brännström put up 19 points in 42 games and he was selected seventh overall by the Rangers.
That’s about even production from a defender, playing in the same caliber league with the exact same structure and surrounding and he was taken eight spots lower. Size is an issue for GMs.
Why Isles take him
For some reason, the New York Islanders aren’t afraid to take undersized defenders. Over the last three drafts, they’ve taken four players that stand 5’11” or shorter.
Sebastian Aho is 5’10” (drafted 139th overall in 2017. David Quenneville is 5’8″ (drafted 200th overall in 2016). Mitchell Vande Sompel is 5’10” (drafted 82nd overall in 2015).
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It’s not that the New York Islanders are some avant-garde organization on the cusp of rationality. But they’ve shown no reluctance to draft “undersized” players. And I think on June 22nd, they do it again.