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Canucks captain Quinn Hughes just keeps getting better

As the games have grown in intensity, Quinn Hughes has dominated puck possession.
Quinn Hughes has been the Vancouver Canucks' best player in the month of March.

Over the last three weeks, Quinn Hughes has arguably played his best hockey of the season. Considering how dominant he’s been this year, that’s really saying something.

It’s not just that Hughes has continued to rack up points as the games have grown tighter and more intense, though he has certainly done that: Hughes has nine points in eight games in the month of March, which happens to lead the Vancouver Canucks in that span. But. beyond the boxscore, Hughes has also put up his best underlying numbers of the season in March. At a time when controlling the puck has gotten more and more difficult with teams closing gaps and playing more physically than ever, Hughes has been a puck possession beast.

Just consider a few of his recent games. 

Against the Los Angeles Kings, a key Pacific Division rival, shot attempts were 34-to-17 for the Canucks with Hughes on the ice at 5-on-5, while shots were 14-to-7.

When the Canucks faced the Winnipeg Jets, who have a strong chance of winning the Central Division, Western Conference, and possibly the Presidents’ Trophy, shot attempts were 31-to-11 for the Canucks with Hughes on the ice at 5-on-5, while shots on goal were 21-to-5.

Facing a Buffalo Sabres team desperate to keep their playoff hopes alive, Hughes completely shut them down: shot attempts were 27-to-6 when he was on the ice at 5-on-5; shots on goal were 12-to-2.

Those are performances that illustrate how Hughes is capable of completely taking over a game when he steps over the boards, tilting the ice to an almost unfair degree. But it’s one thing to be doing that early in the season, when teams might play a little more loose; it’s another thing to keep doing it at crunch time.  

And then it’s another thing from an entirely different realm of existence to elevate your game as much as Hughes has.

As a comparison, let’s look at a couple of Hughes’ primary competitors for the Norris Trophy and also Noah Dobson.


The above are score-adjusted corsi percentages from Natural Stat Trick — shot attempts for and against when a player is on the ice at 5-on-5, adjusted for score effects. Corsi is an imperfect but useful proxy for puck possession for the simple reason that your team needs to have the puck in the offensive zone in order to shoot it.

Hughes has been a puck possession monster all season, with corsi percentages firmly in the black every month. A corsi percentage above 50% means your team is consistently out-shooting their opponents and Hughes has been comfortably above 50% throughout the season.

His corsi percentage of 64.1% in March is exceptional, particularly considering the time of year. Compare that to his contemporaries and Hughes’ exceptional status seems even more assured.

To be fair, Cale Makar has also put up his best corsi percentages of the season in March but nowhere near to the extent of Hughes. 

Evan Bouchard, on the other hand, is having his worst month since October, though still very, very good. It certainly helps playing the vast majority of your minutes with Connor McDavid, though the help is mutual in their case — McDavid has much worse puck possession numbers when not on the ice with Bouchard.

Noah Dobson actually deserves a lot of credit for significantly improving his underlying numbers in recent games. He’s playing for a significantly worse team than the other three, which should be kept in mind.

In any case, this is just one more illustration of how remarkable this season has been for Quinn Hughes. 

You can add it to the pile with his 79 points in 70 games that leads all NHL defencemen, his 11 even-strength goals, his 24:43 average ice time, and his +34 goal differential at 5-on-5, which is second only to Zach Hyman in the NHL.

Hughes ought to be the runaway winner of the Norris Trophy and arguably should be a candidate for the Hart Trophy as well. Most importantly, his strong play as games get harder bodes well for what he might do in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.