VANCOUVER — Quinn Hughes wasn’t about to give his younger brother much advice heading into the NHL draft.
Sure, Hughes had been there before, having been taken seventh overall by the Vancouver Canucks last year. But he knew his brother’s experience was going to be markedly different.
Speculation had been rife for months that Jack Hughes would be this year’s No. 1 pick.
“It’s not a big difference but it is a big difference, the hype and everything like that,” Quinn said last week before the big event. ”But I don’t think he’s needed much help or anything like that.”
Jack Hughes was first off the board on Friday night, selected by the New Jersey Devils. The brothers had, however, talked about the possibility of ending up on the same NHL team.
Quinn Hughes skated at the Top Prospects Clinic today with brother Jack and spoke about the #NHLDraft experience.
— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) June 21, 2019
“Maybe down the road,” Jack said. “Right now we’re going to be looking forward to beating each other next year.”
Canucks general manager Jim Benning said Quinn Hughes did lobby to have Vancouver switch picks and make a run at his brother.
“Yeah, I had conversations, but they didn’t last long,” Benning said.
Jack Hughes has drawn awe for his speed and style, but Quinn thinks there’s something else that sets him apart.
“Obviously he’s very skilled on the skating, hockey sense, hands, everything like that. But how competitive he is, I’ve always thought that’s the big difference in him. He doesn’t care who he’s playing, he’s going to go at you,” Quinn said.
“He’s so dialled in. I don’t know what normal teenagers do, but he’s dialled in, he’s working out in the morning, getting the right sleep and rest and food and everything like that.”
Jack said that drive and work ethic comes from his dad, Jim Hughes, who’s long worked in coaching and player development, including for the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs.
“You’ve got to give things, sacrifice things to be the best. That’s what we’ve always done and will continue to do,” Jack said.
The Hughes brothers honed their work ethic in the U.S. National Team Development Program, where Jack tallied 34 goals and 78 assists last season. He was one of eight players from the program taken in the first round of this year’s draft.
The program provides an intensive environment for players who truly want to excel, Quinn said.
But it’s nothing like the life of a normal teen.
“When I was there at 15, we were getting up at 7, getting ready for school, going to the rink at 12, having study hall for an hour, working out, skating, then we had this military guy that would put us through some push ups. We wouldn’t be home until like 7:30 (p.m.),” he said.
“You’re like 15 years old and no one else is doing that. And you do that for two years and all of the sudden your game takes off.”
The youngest Hughes brother, Luke, is set to join the development program this year. His brothers have no doubt that he’ll soon be following in their footsteps at the NHL draft.
“He’s going to be a hell of a player. He’s big, can skate, can think,” Jack said. “He’s pretty much a clone of Quinn, two or three inches bigger. It’s pretty exciting.”
For now, though, there are two Hughes brothers linked to NHL franchises.
Quinn Hughes played five games with the Canucks last season after finishing an impressive collegiate career at the University of Michigan.
Jack Hughes is expected to join the Devils this fall.
Already, the brothers are thinking about playing each other next season.
“It’s going to be higher stakes. It’s going to be really special,” Jack said. ”My mom is going to be really nervous. But all my family will watch. My friends will watch. It will be a really special game. It will be something to look back on.”
Though Jack Hughes was only drafted on Friday, talk has already swirled about the pair competing for next year’s Calder Trophy, awarded annually to the NHL’s top rookie.
There’s one person, however, who isn’t ready to entertain such thoughts.
“Man, we’re a long way from that,” Jack said. ”I haven’t played a game in the national league. I’m not too worked up about that.”
Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press