The Wolverine

August 2018

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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AUGUST 2018 THE WOLVERINE 35 BY CHRIS BALAS Q uinn Hughes came to Michi- gan last year as a surefire fu- ture NHL Draft pick. A few years ago, though, nobody could have predicted he'd become the No. 7 overall selection like he did after an outstanding first sea- son in Ann Arbor. U-M coaches saw something in him, however, that intrigued them, to the point that they were the first to show him serious interest while he was playing with the U.S. National Development Team. That loyalty went a long way toward securing a commit- ment from the elite defenseman. "I really liked the coaching staff," Hughes recalled. "[Assistant] Billy [Powers] recruited me, and they were the first school that recruited me. I really liked that, and I always remem- bered they gave me the first shot. "Later, all the schools came on, but I felt comfortable with the Michigan coaching staff, and I liked the way they played. Guys like [former stand- outs] Dylan Larkin and Kyle Con- nor were there when I was looking around, and when I saw what those guys could do, I thought I could do it, too." And he did. The Orlando, Fla., na- tive was a Big Ten Rookie of the Year finalist and a second-team All-Big Ten selection this season after notching 29 points (five goals and 24 assists) in 37 games played, helping lead the Wolverines to a 22-15-3 record and a Frozen Four berth. In the postseason, Hughes was named to the Northeast Regional All-Tournament Team. Despite being the youngest player in college hockey — he didn't turn 18 until Oct. 14, eight days after scoring his first U-M goal — Hughes led Wol- verine defensemen in assists, points and plus/minus (plus-14), and co-led defensemen in goals scored. His 24 assists set the standard for the most in program history by a freshman de- fenseman, while his overall point total ranked third among such players all time. He stood out among a strong crop of contenders to earn The Wolverine's Male Rookie of the Year honors, cap- ping an outstanding first season in maize and blue. "I don't think you can prepare yourself for going to school at Michi- gan," he explained. "I didn't really know what I was walking into, but it couldn't have been better. It was a tremendous amount of fun, a great group of guys and I met a lot of awe- some people. It was really enjoyable. "More than anything, it was a spe- cial group of guys. What I've told everybody about the season was we might not have been the most skilled, but we were really close off the ice and really wanted to win together, which helped us, obviously." Like the basketball team, which won 14 of its last 15 games, first-year head coach Mel Pearson's squad got better as the year progressed. The Wolverines won nine of 10 before falling to Notre Dame in the national semifinal, and Hughes was one of the catalysts. His blue line presence and offense from the position made him one of the Big Ten's best players by year's end. "My whole thing coming to Michi- gan was I wanted to make a difference and help the team win," Hughes said. "I think we were ranked in the 50s nationally coming into the season. I'm not saying I turned the whole thing around, but my goal was to help get Michigan hockey back, and we obvi- ously did that. "Inside our group, we always thought we'd be really good heading into the year. Honestly, we thought we'd be really, really good. We strug- gled a bit, but even though we were losing some games during the season, we often thought we were the better team. "We started climbing together, and things obviously went our way. I don't think any of us ever got too worried, and there was maybe only one con- versation we had as a group where we thought we could be in any trouble." Certainly not in the second half of the season. The Wolverines lost only twice in their last dozen games, a 3-2 overtime loss to No. 6 Ohio State in the Big Ten semifinals and a crusher MALE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR QUINN HUGHES Hughes notched five goals and 24 assists during his debut. The latter total set a program record for assists by a freshman defenseman, while his 29 points stood third among such players all time. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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