Photo by Rena Laverty
With the last name of Hughes, it would be easy for the youngest member of the royal hockey family to feel some pressure. Rather, Luke is thriving off it and working on improving his game.
To understand, his family includes brothers, Quinn and Jack, who both played for USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program and were first-round NHL draft picks, along with his parents, Jim (who played at Providence) and Ellen (who played at the University of New Hampshire).
“I don’t think there is any pressure on me,” said Luke, who was born in Manchester, New Hampshire. “I think if there is any pressure, it is the pressure that I put on myself for wanting to be the best. I want to play my game and get better and better.
“That is what the NTDP provides here. You are practicing with the best players in the country. You can really excel here if you put in the work. I don’t worry about that stuff. It will come along the way. Right now, I want to worry about my game.”
It’s perhaps no surprise that Hughes started hockey because his brothers played, and he wanted to be just like them.
“Both my brothers played so I just grew into it,” he said. “I was 2 or so when I was playing mini-sticks and playing on ponds. I really started around 4 years old.
“We always wanted to be the best at it, me and my brothers. We played everything — soccer, golf, basketball and baseball. Hockey was what we fell in love with and stuck with it.”
The brothers are very tight and despite living in three different cities, they always find ways to support each other. With Jack and Quinn both playing in the NHL, the trio always find a way to stay connected and of course, the older Hughes' are more than willing to offer advice to their baby brother.
“Tips and tricks along the way [is what we talk about],” said Luke. “There are little things you are doing wrong that I can fix. That is basically it. It is showing me little things whether it is my dad, or my brothers or my mom. That is just from them watching me play if they can and they have two busy schedules. Whenever they are watching, they send me a text or call me.”
Luke followed in Quinn’s footsteps in becoming a defenseman. It wasn’t his original position, but he saw how it was working out for his oldest brother and really wanted to make the change.
“We were both forwards until we were 12 and we moved back because we could see the ice better,” said Luke. “We didn’t always have that offensive talent that we do now.
“For me, I just followed in his footsteps. We are kind of the same player before I grew. Now, I play a little bit different than he does. Back then, it was following in his footsteps because it worked out for him.”
Hughes does have one advantage over his brothers — he is the tallest of the trio.
Photo by Rena Laverty
“I’m a few inches taller than my brothers,” he stated. “I have grown a little bit too. I was 5-foot-11 and now, I’m 6-foot and a half. I also gained 10 pounds since I came here in late August. I was 155 pounds when Brian [Galivan, director of sports science] measured me and now, I measured myself a few days ago and I was 166 pounds.”
One thing that Hughes understands the importance of, especially for his development, is taking advantage of all the resources that the NTDP has to offer.
“I take advantage of the shooting room, the practices and the gym,” he said. “I’m in the shooting room almost every day, if not every day. If it’s 20 minutes per day, stickhandling and working on my shot. The internal competition in practice. I know everyone says it. It’s really amazing here. Brian is amazing.”
Even though he has spent time at the rink and was able to watch his brothers play for the NTDP, it was still a shock for Hughes when it came to playing USHL opponents. He has learned plenty about himself over the last few months.
Photo by Rena Laverty
“The speed is a lot different,” explained Hughes. “You have less time and space to make plays. Watching both my brothers go through it, I kind of knew what to expect. The speed is different than in midget hockey. They are faster, older and stronger; you have to get off the puck faster, so you have more time.”
In addition, he spends time watching video, not only to improve his game but always to learn from some of the top defenseman.
“For me, it’s watching hockey, especially the NHL games that really help me,” said Hughes. “We do a lot of team stuff. I like to watch a game every night so I can learn from the defensemen.
“I wish I could watch the Dallas defenseman more. It’s hard to watch those western guys. I like watching my brother and Morgan Reilly and learning some things they do in the NHL. Someone I play a lot like is Charlie McAvoy. Anytime I can watch him — it’s awesome. I can learn so much from him.”
Right now Hughes is soaking in little tips and tricks from the Under-17 coaching staff — John Wroblewski, Dan Hinote and Mike Leone. Each item is helping him and the team have success.
“You should play fast and move the puck quick and the offense will come,” said Hughes. “You need to worry about playing defense and playing hard, which is something that I have done. That is basically it.
“It is our brand of hockey. We play really fast and we know who we are. We have a pretty good team with a lot of skill and grit. We have a good blend of that. Our power play has been pretty good lately.”
Hughes and his U17 teammates are in the midst of a four-game homestand and will host the Lincoln Stars at USA Hockey Arena this weekend (Jan. 17-18). He is excited to play at home, especially after a tough last few weeks of travel.
“It will be nice to be home and play in front of our home crowd,” he said. “It wears you down, the big trips. I thought we did a really good job in playing in Russia. That big road trip we had, just a week ago, I thought we did a good job.”
The one thing that will never change for him is how special it is to wear the Team USA jersey.
“It’s amazing,” said Hughes. “Every day representing your country, it really hits you at home. When you go to those international tournaments, you want to win so bad because you are representing your country. It makes you proud to be an American.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.