Columnist image


| Archive

Luke Hughes watched with great pride as his older brothers – Vancouver Canucks defenceman Quinn Hughes and New Jersey Devils centre Jack Hughes – played against each other in the National Hockey League for the first time back in October.

"It's a surreal thing when both your brothers are playing in the NHL," Luke said. "It's a thing you dream about when you're a kid. It was amazing to see that."

The youngest Hughes brother is looking to join his siblings in the next few years. The 16-year-old defenceman, who posted 28 points in 48 games with the U.S. National U17 Team last season, will lea​n on Quinn and Jack for advice as he enters his draft campaign.

​"It's an advantage having two brothers in the NHL telling you little tips and tricks," he said. "It's huge and will help me a lot. Both of them gave me the same advice, which is, 'It's a really long year and you have to stay open-minded to everything and stay calm and at one level. You can't be too high or too low, because it'll bite you.'"

Jack was the first overall pick in the 2019 NHL draft while Quinn is a top contender to win the Calder Trophy this year. Luke is aiming to follow in some pretty big footsteps, but insists there's no added pressure because of his last name.

"I don't think there's any pressure at all, because at the end of the day you choose a sport that you love to play and if you think about it like that there should be no pressure, because you're having fun."

Luke spoke with TSN via Zoom this week to relive some of his top memories growing up in the hockey hotbed of Toronto. He also revealed how he's different than his brothers on and off the ice. The following is an edited transcript of the interview.

What was it like growing up with Quinn and Jack as the youngest brother?

"At the end of the day, we were just three regular kids trying to love the game and grow their game so it was a lot of fun growing up. Whether it was ping-pong, basketball or mini-sticks or on the outdoor rink everything was a competition and it was a lot of fun. They would push me a lot in anything we did."

Do you have any bragging rights on either of those guys?

"I like to think of myself as the best basketball player, but Quinn's pretty good too. We're all pretty equal at anything we do."

What's your basketball game like?

"I drive a lot. I'm almost 6-foot-2 now so that helps a lot."

Are your brothers – Quinn is 5-foot-10 and Jack is 5-foot-11 – jealous of your size?

"Yeah, they say I got the 'Pop' gene from my grandfather."

How are you different from your brothers off the ice?

"Jack's really outgoing while Quinn is kind of an introvert and I'm a little in between."

What was it like spending part of your childhood in the hockey hotbed of Toronto while your dad, Jim, worked in the Maple Leafs organization?

"Growing up in Toronto and watching the Maple Leafs, it was amazing going to the games. Playing in the GTHL, I don't think there's any better developmental league in the world. It was an unbelievable time. There were rinks on every corner and it was a really fun time. Also, there were a lot of crazy youth hockey parents."

What were the crazy parents like?

"A lot of screaming in the stands of, 'Kill him! Hit him!' But it was awesome."

Any special memories at Leafs games?

"We went to one of the playoff games against Boston and were in the standing-room-only section, because that's where we could get in. We said, 'Get us some tickets and we'll figure it out,' and all the crazy Toronto fans were chanting a bunch of fun stuff."

Leafs forward William Nylander lived with you guys for a bit after he got drafted and both Jack and Quinn have praised his table tennis talents. What do you remember?

"I was really young at the time, but I remember we used to bet on it. We used to have these BarDown hats and we used to bet BarDown hats on ping-pong games and Willie won everything. He was an unbelievable person and it was a really fun time."

How often do you speak to your brothers during the season?

"We talk a lot, probably three times a week. It's always nice to hear their voices. Quinn's been in quarantine in Vancouver and I FaceTimed him two nights ago and he was playing NHL 20 and we both are GMs."

How much of your discussions are about hockey?

"You know, it's more about life. If I'm playing the next day then, yeah, we'll talk a little bit about hockey, but it's just about how it's going and little stuff."

You and Quinn are both defencemen, in what ways are you similar and in which ways are you different?

"I'm a little more physical than him, because of the size difference. We're really similar in a lot of ways."

In which ways are you the most similar?

"Probably hockey sense and skating. We kind of skate the same way."

You'​re committed to play at the University of Michigan for the 2021-22 season, what has Quinn told you about the college experience?

"His No. 1 message is that once I get there to just enjoy it, because it goes by really fast. He had a lot of fun there and really developed there so he says just take advantage of it."

You're bigger than your brothers, which will be an advantage, but you have to grow into your frame. Where are you at in terms of physical maturity?

"I'm just under 6-foot-2 right now. I was skating with [Senators prospect] Josh Norris a little bit ago and we were the same size. Right now, I'm at 172 pounds so I'll keep growing into my body and keep getting stronger."

Have you put on some pounds of late?

"Yeah, eight pounds. I was at 164 at the start of last season."

What is your goal for the 2020-21 season?

"Right now I'm just worried about training and getting stronger and faster. We have no idea what will happen with the pandemic, but next year it'd be unbelievable for our team to win the U18 Worlds. But, again, I'm just worrying about right now."

Where are you focused on improving the most?

"You can get better at everything so skating, hands, shot. We've been working on my shot a lot lately and on scoring more goals."

How do you work on it?

"It's about using the [stick] technology, using the flex, the lie, the curve."

Outside of your brother I know you enjoy watching Columbus' Zach Werenski and Boston's Charlie McAvoy. What do you like about the games of those guys?

"With Charlie it's how he uses his size to his advantage and the way he hits guys and how smart he is and his skating. And the same thing with Zach plus also how he scores goals. He had 20 goals this year and that's a lot for a defenceman. So, the way he skates, his poise and his shot."

What are your days looking like now?

"I'm taking an online chemistry class to get it off my plate. I wake-up and do two hours of that and then I go and work out with [trainer] Brian Gallivan and then I skate and then just chill by the pool and hang out. It's been nice."