Quinn Hughes said he was feeling better than ever when he skated with his Vancouver Canucks teammates for the first time in phase 2 of the NHL return to play plan at Rogers Arena on Tuesday.
Hughes, who led NHL rookies with 53 points (eight goals, 45 assists) and 25 power points this season, played in 68 of Vancouver’s 69 games before the NHL ended the season on March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.
“Everyone is going through this (forties) for the first time, so people don’t really know what to expect,” said Hughes. “But, for me personally, it was really nice to see the boys again today. Everyone missed each other and it was a fun day. ”
The Canucks are 36-27-6 (0.565 points) in the regular season before the break and will advance to the Stanley Cup Qualifiers as No. 7 seeded at the Western Conference. They will face the No. 10 seed, the Minnesota Wild (35-27-7, .558), in one of the best eight streaks of five.
Provided that health and safety conditions allow and that the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association reach an agreement on phases 3 and 4 of the return to play plan, training camps will open on July 10. 12 participating Western Conference teams, one for the 12 Eastern teams – have not been determined.
Hughes said he never stopped trying to improve during the break.
“This time away from the game gave me a lot of time to think about what I can improve on, think about the future and what this streak might look like (against the Wild),” said the 20-year-old. “They’re going to play hard – it’s going to be do or die. They’re probably going to be playing quite physically, and these are things I’m going to have to get used to, and I’m looking forward to it. I think it will be really fun, honestly. ”
Hughes and the Colorado Avalanche defender Makar wedge, is widely regarded as one of the top candidates for the Calder Trophy as an NHL Rookie of the Year. He said the vote was out of his control at this point and that he was only focusing on the qualifying streak.
” It’s incredible; when you’re in the season, I would be lying if I said that I haven’t thought about it much, but now that the season is over, I haven’t really thought about it because, in the end, it didn’t not really matter, “said Hughes. “For me it was obviously a goal and something I wanted to do and accomplish. There are many great recruits this year. If I end up winning, it’s something I will treasure and it’s a blessing, but if I don’t, I can tip my cap. ”
Hughes became the third defenseman in the modern NHL era (since 1943-1944) to lead rookies by scoring in a season, joining Bobby Orr (1966-1967) and Brian Leetch (1988-1989).
“When you say these two names, it sounds a little crazy, so, no, I wouldn’t [have expected] to hear that, “said Hughes. But, at the same time, I expected to have a very good season. After playing these five games [last season and having three assists], I thought I played well but I knew I had another level. When I had this success, I really thought I could have a great year. ”
Hughes lived in his family’s house in Plymouth, Michigan, during the break. He said he spent most of his time with his younger brothers, Jack hughes New Jersey Devils and Luke, play basketball 2-3 hours a day, rollerblading and swimming, among other activities, to stay in shape.
“I’m more competitive at home than I would be here, honestly,” said Hughes with a laugh. “I had a lot of fun at home with these guys because we don’t spend a lot of time together during the year. It was pretty noisy at home; it was a good time. ”
With 24 teams vying for the Stanley Cup, Hughes said he was confident the NHL players would add intensity.
“I expect him to be very competitive and very good in hockey,” said Hughes. “We haven’t played in a while, but we are all professionals and I think you can pick these up quickly. … It should be really good, high-end hockey.”