Prospect Week: Luke Hughes

by Dan Morse

A mere 47 hours separates the upcoming Seattle Kraken expansion draft and the NHL entry draft. That’s a whole lot of new players headed to Seattle in a short window of time. While the expansion draft will likely dominate NHL coverage, especially in the Seattle area, the Kraken’s first ever entry draft is an equally important moment in shaping the future of the franchise.

Odds are that Buffalo will select defenseman Owen Power with the first pick this year. But that second overall selection, owned by the Kraken, seems much murkier on the surface. Which is why this week, we’ll break down five candidates for the Kraken’s first every draft pick. Today, it’s the third Hughes brother.

Luke Hughes

Luke Hughes has a lot to live up to. The youngest of the three Hughes brothers, Luke looks likely to become yet another top-10 pick from the group of brothers that were considered to be “America’s future first family of hockey” as far back as 2018. The 6’2″ left-handed defenseman currently playing at the University of Michigan is often praised as an elite skater.

In NHL Central Scouting’s final prospect rankings for 2021, Hughes ranked 2nd among defenders behind only the presumptive number one pick Owen Power. Like his brother Quinn, he brings an attacking mindset to his position that makes him dangerous on the rush and in the offensive zone. The main difference is Luke has the size more typical of an NHL defender.

Aside from his raw talent, which is definitely enough to make him a possible number two overall pick, there are a couple other reasons Hughes makes sense in Seattle.

Drafting a Hughes has worked well so far

I mentioned earlier that Luke is the youngest of three brothers all bound for the NHL. Jack Hughes is a center that was drafted first overall by the New Jersey Devils in 2019, while Quinn Hughes is another defenseman drafted seventh overall in 2018 by the Vancouver Canucks.

Jack Hughes had a slow start in New Jersey in his rookie season, but came on strong last year and proved he was a worthy first overall pick. He nearly doubled his points per 60 at 5-on-5, going from 0.8 to 1.4.

Quinn Hughes, meanwhile, has proven to be a key piece of a young Canucks core. While his ability in the defensive zone perhaps leaves some wanting, he has no doubt added value in the offensive zone and on the power play.

The point of all this is simply to say that the Hughes brothers have thus far lived up to the hype, and there’s no reason to think Luke won’t be every bit the NHL player his brothers are. If he turns out to have the offensive skills of Quinn plus an extra 4 inches in height, he should be great on the power play and a much bigger presence in his own zone.

He would embellish the natural Vancouver rivalry

As mentioned earlier, Hughes’ older brother Quinn is currently a core member of the Vancouver Canucks.

The Canucks are often cited as the natural rivals for the Kraken. They’re isolated in the Pacific Northwest, with Calgary a solid 10 hour drive away and no teams to the South until you get to California. But in reality, rivalries aren’t always as simple as “they’re close to us,” no matter how much we want them to exist. By adding the third Hughes brother to Seattle, there would be an immediate bond between the two cities and an immediate competition between the two fanbases arguing about which city got the better Hughes brother.

The drawbacks with selecting the youngest Hughes come down to the fact that he needs more experience at higher levels of hockey. His decision-making isn’t the best in this draft class, though it did improve in the limited playing time he saw in 2021. By most draft analysts’ opinions, Hughes wouldn’t likely make the jump to the NHL for at least a season or two.

As an expansion team, however, the Kraken aren’t likely to make a Cinderella run to the Stanley Cup Final like their cousins in Vegas. They can afford to draft for development and upside as opposed to the most NHL-ready prospect that can help immediately in year one. For that reason, Luke Hughes would make a great choice for the first pick in franchise history.

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