The Wolverine

August 2018

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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36 THE WOLVERINE AUGUST 2018 in the last six seconds to No. 2 Notre Dame in the Frozen Four. The College Hockey News All-Rookie choice's experience on the national stage prepared him well for the pres- sure of big-time college hockey, and he made the most of his first year. Whether there will be a second re- mains to be seen. Hughes has played against enough elite competition — he was the lone collegian to participate in the 2018 IIHF World Championships, where he helped the U.S. win a bronze medal — and gotten enough feedback to realize he's one of the top defense- man prospects in the world. Former NHL defenseman Brian Campbell, a great skater in his day, compared Hughes to Scott Nieder- mayer, an 18-year defenseman who was a five-time All-Star, once won the title as the league's best defenseman and was included on's 2017 list of the 100 greatest players in the league's history. Campbell told reporters Hughes would "be one of the best skaters in the NHL if you put him into a lineup right now, not just in Vancouver." Hughes' dad, Jim, has worked for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins, in addition to spending time as an AHL coach, among other jobs in professional hockey, so his son is familiar with the business end of the sport. He wasn't overwhelmed when the Canucks took him seventh overall. "I don't think I appreciate it that much right now because it doesn't mean anything," he said. "I still have a lot of work to do. My goal was not to get drafted seventh … it was to play in the NHL. "But I don't think I take anything for granted, and I'm obviously very excited." Hughes said he'd probably make a decision on his future by July 28. He loves Michigan, he said, but it's always been his dream to play in the NHL. He'll have Pearson's support either way, though the coach would obviously love to have him back for another year. "I just want to make sure he's physi- cally mature to handle the 82-game schedule and the grind of the NHL," Pearson told Sportsnet 650's Starting Lineup, a Vancouver radio show, in early July, pointing to top-10 NHL picks and former Wolverines Zach Werenski and Jack Johnson as exam- ples of players that came back and benefited from it. "I would say Quinn could use a year [to physically ma- ture]. But having said that, he's so elu- sive, he's so smart, he seems to never put himself in a bad position to get hit. "And the way the NHL's going — I don't want to say there's less hitting, but it seems like it's a skating/skill game, until maybe when you get to the playoffs, where it seems like it's a different type game." Pearson added that Hughes was "without question" the best skater he's coached at the college level in his 30 years. Whether he stays or goes, Hughes said he'd always be grateful for hav- ing learned from Pearson. "It was awesome," he said. "What I like about Mel is he's easy to connect to. He's got an open door there if you ever want to go speak or talk, and it doesn't have to be hockey. It can be anything. "I connected very well with him from the get go, and he's obviously a great coach. Coach [Red] Berenson did a lot for the program and was a pioneer, but Mel coming in and doing what he did as a coach … he doesn't get enough credit. He really turned the program around, and I see him in the next 10 years with Michigan hockey really almost dominating. "I can't say enough about him as a coach." Hughes was a big part of that turn- around. Whether he returns or not, he's already created memories in Ann Arbor that will last a lifetime. "My proudest moment of the sea- son was when we made it to the Fro- zen Four. That was my main goal," he said. "We didn't win the national championship, but we got pretty close, and I thought I helped make a difference. "It was really emotional losing how we did. We thought we could have beat Notre Dame, but things happen. It wasn't our year — but it will be [in the future]." He may or not be there when it is, but there's no denying he made the most of his first year at Michigan, a big part of a program that needed a resurgence. ❏ Filling Out The Top Five Male Rookies Quinn Hughes might have been a one-year guy, though he was still contem- plating returning for his sophomore season as of July 17. These other outstand- ing rookies will be back for an encore in 2018-19. 2. Jesse Franklin, Baseball — The Freshman All-American by five different out- lets earned unanimous Big Ten All-Freshman honors after leading the team with a .588 slugging percentage, 10 home runs and 47 RBI, the latter two numbers also ranked among the top 10 in the league. Twenty-two of the first baseman's 54 hits went for extra bases, and he also notched a .991 fielding percentage. 3. Jacob Moore, Gymnastics — The West Bloomfield, Mich., native was a 2018 NCAA All-American in floor exercise as the national runner-up, was once the NCAA Rookie of the Week (Feb. 5) and a two-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week (Feb. 5 and March 26). His 14.366 on the floor exercise and runner-up showing was the best national finish for a Wolverine in the event since 1992 (April 21), and he tied for second on the team in event titles (four). 4. Kevin Mack, Lacrosse — The attackman led the team with 21 assists, which tied a program single-season record, ranked second with 42 points and was third with 21 goals in his first season in maize and blue. He ranked sixth in the Big Ten and tied for 39th nationally in assists per game (1.50), and finished 11th in the Big Ten in points per game (3.00), which ranked No. 6 in the NCAA among freshmen. He also concluded the campaign with a point in 12 straight games. 5. Ricardo Vargas, Swimming & Diving — The Big Ten Swimming Freshman of the Year also earned second-team All-Big Ten honors. He was a two-time Col- lege Swimming Coaches Association of America (CSCAA) All-American (finishing seventh in the 1,650-yard freestyle and eighth in the 500-yard freestyle) and a CSCAA All-America honorable mention (13th in the 800-yard freestyle relay). He added a trio of top-three finishes at the Big Ten Championships, including two individual runner-up honors. — Chris Balas

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