Quinn, 18, and Jack, 17, are both poised to star for the United States at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship in Vancouver and Victoria. It’s an exciting and rare opportunity for the two brothers to compete side by side at an elite level.
This year, Quinn, a smooth-skating offensive defenceman who had 34 points as a University of Michigan freshman, was drafted seventh overall by the Vancouver Canucks. After winning gold at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship, he added bronze medals at this year’s World Juniors in Buffalo and the World Championship in Denmark.
In 2019, Jack is expected to become the seventh American ever drafted number one overall. The shifty, explosive centre racked up 12 points en route to MVP honors at the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship in Russia (Magnitogorsk and Chelyabinsk). After torching the Toronto minor hockey system, Jack will return for a second season with USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program in Plymouth, Michigan.
The brothers come from a sports family. Both their parents starred as college athletes. Their father Jim has worked as a Boston Bruins assistant coach (2001-03) and the Toronto Maple Leafs director of player development (2009-2015), among other hockey jobs. Their mother Ellen was named a tournament all-star on defence at the 1992 IIHF Women’s World Championship in Finland. It’s no surprise that the Hughes boys not only play the game well, but are also articulate and thoughtful about their roles.
We recently caught up with both Hughes brothers at the World Junior Showcase in Kamloops, British Columbia. Here’s some of what they had to say.
Quinn on his past history of playing with Jack:
He always played a year up with 2000’s. Then one game he got called up with the 99’s, so he was playing two years up. That was pretty fun. I was a little nervous for him, though, because all these guys had hit puberty and he hadn’t. But he ended up scoring that game. It was pretty funny. That was the only time I played with him, besides mini-sticks and stuff like that. I enjoyed it. It was fun.
Jack on which NHL players he models himself on:
Guys like [Patrick] Kane and [Connor] McDavid, high-skill players. I wouldn’t say I play like them, but I for sure take things from their game and try to implement them into my game. I emulate certain things, but I wouldn’t say I’m a certain player. Everyone sees how fast the NHL is these days, so to have that extra gear, it’s super-important. Not many guys can skate like McDavid, of course. He’s kind of one-of-a-kind.
Quinn on the communication between the two brothers:
I have a lot of respect for him. I always say when we’re training, even though I’m the older brother, he pushes me too and I respect his opinion. He has a very smart hockey mind, so it’d be dumb for me not to really listen to him. He’s got his ideas and things that work for him. When we’re bouncing off ideas, and stuff like that, I think that’s when we start to work.
Jack on the telepathic connection he enjoys with Quinn on the ice:
We learned from the same people. We think hockey the same way. He’ll get an idea and I’ll be like, “Man, I was just thinking that!” I defer to him a little bit and he listens to me as well.
Quinn on the possibility of playing with Jack in the NHL:
I don’t know if that’s going to happen or not. I hope the Canucks have a really good season. I’m sure Jack will be going pretty early. It’s something all brothers dream of. That’d be pretty fun.
Jack on whether the brothers competed with each other while growing up:
Oh yeah. Whatever it was, basketball in the driveway. When we were younger, we’d go to the outdoor rink with each of the three brothers [including the youngest, Luke]. We’d have two friends each. We’d go play outdoor hockey till like 12 noon, and then come home and play mini sticks for another hour or two. Whatever you do, it’s competitive with three boys in the house. It’s a really good childhood.
Quinn on why he decided to return to the University of Michigan instead of turning pro:
I think being patient here and following the [Zach] Werenski and [Charlie] McAvoy path isn’t going to hurt me. With the set-up we have at Michigan with the coaching staff, teammates and facilities, I think there’s no reason I shouldn’t get five, 10 percent better over the year.
Quinn on how he sees 2018-19 unfolding beyond the World Juniors:
My focus is just going back to Michigan and getting stronger, continuing to develop my game, and hopefully winning some hockey games at Michigan. Then after that year, I can hopefully crack the Canucks’ lineup, or join them in April.
Quinn on which NHL players he might be likened to:
Brian Rafalski was a little before my time. I got to catch the back end of his career at the 2010 Olympics. Whenever I ask older people who I remind them of, it’s him. It’s actually funny. I sat down with Lou Lamoriello at an Islanders meeting and he loved that. He spent a lot of time with him in New Jersey. Duncan Keith I love to watch, because his intensity – not only in the offensive zone but also in the defensive zone – is second to none. He’s fun to watch. Maybe a guy like Kris Letang.