Vision: Hughes is arguably the best passer among all NHL blueliners. He sees the ice exceptionally well and is deadly accurate with his setups, whether they’re long bombs, slap passes to the side of the net or sweet dishes into scoring areas. There isn’t a pass he can’t put right on your tape.
Skating: Though he’s far from a straight-line burner, he’s as agile as they come on the back end. That elusiveness is invaluable on the breakout, as he can buy time to either carry the puck out himself or create a viable passing lane. He’s also very good at walking the offensive blue line to open up more possibilities on the attack.
Transition: Due to his superb passing and agility, he’s an absolute monster in transition. If you offer him a sliver of space, he’ll spot the best option in the neutral zone and the Canucks will be off to the races. That ability to exit the zone with control tilts the ice in his club’s favor.
Defense: The flip side of his phenomenal offense is poor defense. He doesn’t keep a tight gap or enjoy puck battles, and he often loses inside leverage in front of the net. Moreover, if you lean on him, he has a bad habit of coughing up the puck in bad situations. He requires a safety net as a partner.
Size: Part of his defensive issues stem from his 5’10”, 180-pound frame. He simply isn’t built for the trenches, and it shows every time he’s forced to enter them. He loses the vast majority of his one-on-one battles, and when he retrieves the puck under pressure, he frequently gets ragdolled until he turns it over. He doesn’t boast the reach or acumen to deny easy entries either.