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The Hughes Brothers: Hockey History in the Making

Courtesy of Quinn Hughes (@_quinnhughes on Instagram; background via Getty Images, JTA)

Any fan of the NHL, or even NCAA hockey knows the last name “Hughes”. The three superstar brothers, Quinn, Jack, and Luke, have been making headlines across the country for years. But, in recent months, we’ve been hearing their names more and more. Between their growing popularity in the last decade, their numerous accomplishments, and their continuously growing fame, these brothers’ names won’t be forgotten anytime soon. This blog will dive deep into their childhood, their play before the NHL, their drafts, and their individual accomplishments.

Courtesy of ESPN

Growing Up

The Hughes brothers have put in way too much work to call all of their successes “predestined”, but it didn’t hurt for them to have some superstar player parents guiding and coaching them along the way. Their father, Jim Hughes, was a star defenseman at Providence College before beginning a coaching career that moved the family around a lot. Some of their earliest stops around the country included Orlando, Florida (where Quinn and Jack were born, though Luke was born in New Hampshire), where he was a minor league assistant, as well as Boston, where he spent 2001-03 as a Bruins assistant.

It was during the Hughes family's time in Boston that Ellen Weinberg-Hughes told ESPN that she began to notice her boys' interest in the game. “While other kids scattered to concession stands and souvenir shops, Jack and Quinn sat with their box of popcorn, fixated on the TD Garden ice. You've got to learn something from that, right?”, she says. Ellen, a three-sport athlete at the University of New Hampshire (soccer, lacrosse and hockey), who went on to play for Team USA at the second IIHF World Women's Hockey Championship in 1992, can easily be considered the Hughes brothers’ first ever coach. She taught all three boys to skate, laying the main foundation for what would become the most crucial element of their game, just as it was hers.

In 2006, Jim accepted a position as an assistant with the AHL Marlies, and the Hughes family moved to Toronto. There, the Hughes family told ESPN, on most winter weekend mornings for the next nine years, you could find them at Toronto's Wedgewood Park (the ODR, as they called it). Right after the frozen-over tennis court was flooded with a fresh sheet of ice, Ellen says that she would roll up in her car filled with preteen boys and their hockey bags, usually before anybody else. These early morning experiences provided the best development for Quinn, Jack and Luke. With no lines, no boards, no limitations, their “ODR'' was their blank, frozen canvas. All they needed was imagination, creativity and plenty of warm layers.

Their competition, however, whether outdoors or anywhere, was a vital element to their development. "They grew their passion for the game outdoors," Jim told ESPN. "There was no structure. They just had fun, but everything was a competition." If they weren't at the “ODR”, they were in their basement, scuffed walls, tattered net, and all. "It doesn't matter what we're doing. If we're wakesurfing or skiing or shooting pucks or running up a hill, it's very competitive," Quinn told ESPN. "That's how you get better."

After Jim became the director of player development for the Toronto Maple Leafs, he had much more time to watch his boys play, watch games on TV, and study film that the Maple Leaf coaches were showing their pro players. Jim was making the same comments and giving the same tips he would give to pro-prospects to his preteen sons. Living in Toronto also gave the Hughes brothers a chance to play for some of the most renowned youth hockey organizations in the world, as all three played for the Marlboros, a club with notable alumni like Connor McDavid and John Tavares. With this new job, Jim also brought his sons into the same environment as NHL players, coaches, and all there is in between. Even William Nylander, the Toronto Maple Leafs star right wing, lived with the Hughes family after he was drafted in the first round in 2014. The Hughes brothers began to watch and study his every move, down to what he ate and when he went to bed. Being in that environment helped grow these brothers to live, work, and play like true pros.

USNTDP/Collegiate Play

Quinn Hughes played Bantam and Midget hockey in Toronto before joining the USA Hockey National Team Development Program in 2015. He excelled with the NTDP's Under-17 and Under-18 teams, and then played at the University of Michigan, where he scored 29 points (five goals, 24 assists) as a freshman. After helping the U.S. finish at the 2018 IIHF World Championship, Quinn was selected by the Vancouver Canucks in the first round (No. 7) of the 2018 NHL Draft. Quinn played one more season at Michigan, scoring 33 points (five goals, 28 assists) in 32 games before signing with the Canucks on March 10, 2019.

Jack Hughes, at just 18 years old and with no collegiate play, unlike his brothers, was selected by the New Jersey Devils as the No. 1 pick of the 2019 NHL Draft after he led the USA Hockey National Team Development Program Under-18 team with 112 points (34 goals, 78 assists) in 50 games in 2018-19. He led the 2019 IIHF World Under-18 Championship with 20 points (nine goals, 11 assists) for the United States, which finished third. Jack played 61 games for the Devils as an 18-year-old and scored 21 points (seven goals, 14 assists) before the 2019-20 season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.

Luke Hughes, just like his brother Quinn, played for two seasons at Michigan, where he had 87 points (27 goals, 60 assists) in 80 games in two seasons. He had 48 points (10 goals, 38 assists) in 39 games in 2022-23 to help the Wolverines go 26-12-3 and reach the Frozen Four for the second straight season. Luke, the New Jersey Devil’s (No. 4) pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Devils on April 8, two days after the University of Michigan was eliminated from the NCAA Frozen Four with a 5-2 loss to Quinnipiac University.

Courtesy of Michigan Hockey on X (Formerly Twitter)

Superstar Achievments

After Luke, at just 17, was drafted in the first round (No. 4) to the New Jersey Devils in the 2021 NHL Draft, the Hughes brothers officially became the first American family to have all three children picked in the first round of the NHL Draft. This was truly a historical achievement for not only Quinn, Jack, and Luke, but also their parents Jim and Ellen.

In Quinn’s first full NHL season, he was impressive enough to earn a spot on the PAcific Divison roster for the 2020 Honda NHL All-Star Game. His assist on J.T. Miller's power-play goal against the Ottawa Senators on that February 27 was his 43rd of the season, and his 24th point on the man-advantage, which set many new Canucks records by a rookie. He scored 53 points before the season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus, second in Canucks history by a rookie defenseman (behind Dale Tallon's 56 in 1970-71). He became the fastest defenseman in NHL history to get 200 assists by reaching the milestone in 263 games, one fewer than Brian Leetch, in a 4-1 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-1 at Rogers Arena on March 4, 2023. And, most recently, he was named the 15th captain in the history of the Vancouver Canucks on September 11, 2023. He is the first defenseman to wear the 'C' since Doug Lidster was part of a three-player rotation with Trevor Linden and Dan Quinn in 1990-91, and first full time at the position since Kevin McCarthy from 1979 to 1982.

Jack holds many NTDP records for assists (154) and points (228) in 110 games over two seasons. He was the fifth NTDP player selected No. 1 (Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs, 2016; Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks, 2007; Erik Johnson, St. Louis Blues, 2006; Rick DiPietro, New York Islanders, 2000). In the 2019 IIHF World Under-18 Championship, he set a tournament record with 32 points (14 goals, 18 assists) in 14 games over two tournaments (2018, 2019), passing Alex Ovechkin, who had 31 points (23 goals, eight assists) in 14 games for Russia at the 2002 and 2003 tournaments. Coming of age in the 2021-22 season, he accumulated 56 points (26 goals, 30 assists) in 49 games and scored his first NHL hat trick in a 5-1 victory against the Washington Capitals on Nov. 26, 2022, which gave coach Lindy Ruff his 800th victory. At 21 years and 196 days, Jack became the eighth-youngest player in Devils/Colorado Rockies/Kansas City Scouts history to get a hat trick. It was also the 13th natural hat trick in franchise history and first since Brian Boyle on Nov. 5, 2018. He became the first Devils player with 40 goals in a season since Zach Parise scored 45 in 2008-09 in a 5-3 win against the Ottawa Senators on March 25, 2023. He was also the second-youngest player (21 years, 315 days) in New Jersey/Colorado Rockies/Kansas City Scouts history at the time of their 40th goal behind Wilf Paiement (21 years, 166 days March 31, 1977). Jack then scored into an empty net to complete a 6-2 win against the Buffalo Sabres on April 11 for his 97th point, breaking the franchise record of 96 set by Patrik Elias in 2000-01. And finally, skating in his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut, Game 1 of the 2023 Eastern Conference First Round, Hughes became the first player in Devils/Rockies/Scouts history to score a penalty-shot goal in the NHL postseason.

Luke represented the United States at the 2019 World U-17 Hockey Challenge where he recorded one goal and three assists in six games and won a silver medal. In his first season at the University of Michigan, he broke many records. He led the league in goals scored (13 in conference play, and recorded nine assists for 22 points), the second most points in the league behind Matty Beniers. He led the nation's defensemen in scoring (17 goals and 19 assists for 36 points in 37 games), and is a +25. He set several Michigan program records during his first season, as well. His 17 goals surpassed Dean Turner's freshman defenseman record of 13 set in 1975–76, and he passed Jack Johnson's 32 points for the most points by a Michigan freshman defenseman. Following an outstanding freshman season, he was named to the All-Big Ten Freshman Team, the All-Big Ten Second Team and was named Co-Big Ten Freshman of the Year. He was also named an AHCA West Second Team All-American, and a 2022 Hobey Baker Award finalist. During the 2022–23 (sophomore) season, he led the league's defensemen in scoring (seven goals and 21 assists for 28 points), averaging 1.27 points per game. In 39 total games, he recorded 10 goals and 38 assists, ranking second in the nation in points per game by a defensemen. During the WJC his sophomore year, he was named Captain of the U.S. World Juniors Team, leading his team to a bronze medal. Following another outstanding season, he was named a finalist for the Big Ten Player of the Year and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and was named to the All-Big Ten First Team. He was also named an AHCA West First Team All-American. After being drafted to the first round (No. 4) by the New Jersey Devils, Luke turned pro after his two seasons with the Wolverines, helping them reach the Frozen Four for two straight seaons.

Courtesy of SportsNet on Youtube

Never-Fading Stars

As we enter the 2023-2024 regular NHL season, the names of these brothers won’t be fading from headlines anytime soon. With Quinn going into his first season as Captain of the Canucks, Jack entering another superstar season with the New Jersey Devils, and Luke, alongside Jack, entering his first full NHL regular season with the Devils, the Hughes brothers are bound to keep making history. Keep an ear out for their names this season, as they continue to add more and more accomplishments to their already long lists.

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