Detroit Red Wings: Passing on Quinn Hughes a huge swing and miss

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

When forward Filip Zadina fell into the Detroit Red Wings lap, it seemed like the perfect choice, but as it turns out, Quinn Hughes would have been the more impactful pick.

It’s ironic that the Detroit Red Wings desperately seek an impactful defender to anchor the organizations’ back-end, after having possibly the greatest defenseman of all-time as the ultimate security blanket for 20-years.  Nicklas Lidstrom had been the most renowned ‘eraser’ in Red Wings history. Still, the organization has stumbled to find a young reliable replacement since 2012 when the icon chose to officially hang-up his skates.

It’s easier said than done, trying to replace the best defenseman in Red Wings history, and arguably the most reliable two-way defender in NHL history.

In the meantime, the Red Wings leaned on veteran Niklas Kronwall, and rightfully so, but as the hard-hitting defender aged, the organization struggled to find someone to follow in his footsteps.

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I had been immensely excited when forward Filip Zadina fell to the Detroit Red Wings, who owned the sixth overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft.  At the time it was clear general manager, Ken Holland had his sights set on an impactful defender but was forced to shift gears seeing a premier junior sniping-scorer like Zadina fall.  Zadina had initially been slated to be a top-three choice, leaving the Red Wings brass to salivate over a potential top-six scoring winger.

I can’t help but wonder where the organization would be if the team opted to select a local product in Quinn Hughes instead.  Hughes had been born in Florida but uprooted to Michigan to play with USA hockey’s National Development Program before playing his college hockey with the Wolverines. The Vancouver Canucks selected Hughes with the seventh overall pick in ’18, yes, the very next choice after Zadina.

The mobile, playmaking defender is making a significant impact with the Canucks in his first full season.  Hughes’ recorded 53 points in just 68 games during his rookie campaign averaging nearly 22 minutes of ice-time as a 20-year old.  He’s played in ten playoff games this season, recording one goal and adding nine assists; he’s performing at a stellar point per game pace.

By many accounts, Holland and company had preferred defenseman Evan Bouchard over Hughes, leaving us to ponder if Zadina had been selected in the top-five if the Red Wings would have happened to pass on the playmaker anyway.

Amusingly, Bouchard was selected 10th overall by the Edmonton Oilers, the team Holland currently manages.  Bouchard failed to make the Oilers this season despite the organization lacking defense depth, but he doesn’t seem far away from being an NHL regular.  Bouchard amassed 36 points in 54 games this past season in Bakersville, the Oilers AHL affiliate.

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The Detroit Red Wings have a couple of bright young defense prospects led by 2019’s top pick Moritz Seider and the teams’ top defender this past season Filip Hronek.  One can only wonder how quickly a player like Hughes would have sped up this length rebuild.