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Canucks' Hughes: Any critic of my defensive ability 'doesn't watch me play'

Jeff Vinnick / National Hockey League / Getty

Vancouver Canucks blue-liner Quinn Hughes is primarily viewed as one of the NHL's elite offensive defensemen, but he doesn't pay mind to those who think he's one-dimensional.

"I feel like my game's really good right now," Hughes said, courtesy of TSN. "I'm proud that I'm a plus. I'm playing a lot of minutes, and defensively, I've been trusted against the top lines. Anyone that says I'm a defensive liability, frankly, doesn't watch me play at this point."

Hughes is plus-16 through 65 games to lead a Canucks team that ranks 23rd with a minus-25 goal differential. He's markedly improved in that department over the past two years after finishing minus-10 and minus-24 in two seasons from 2019-21.

Among six Canucks blue-liners to play at least 500 five-on-five minutes this season, Hughes ranks second in expected goals against per 60 minutes (2.72) and third in shots against per 60 minutes (27.54).

The 23-year-old has managed to limit opponents' top offensive threats while averaging 25:23 per contest - sixth-most among NHL defensemen - and putting up 65 points, good for third among blue-liners behind Norris Trophy contenders Erik Karlsson and Josh Morrissey.

Hughes, however, thinks he still can improve.

"I think as far as the numbers, I still haven't scored a lot. I've missed a lot of my chances, and I think that there's still lots of room to grow, to be honest with you," he said. "I'm happy with my game; of course, with those (individual) awards, you have to be on a team maybe that wins. But I feel like I'm right there with a lot of the guys, for sure."

Drafted seventh overall by Vancouver in 2018, Hughes has 230 points in 270 career games with the Canucks. He was named an alternate captain after Rick Tocchet replaced Bruce Boudreau as head coach midseason, and the dynamic rearguard said at the time he wants to grow as a leader while Vancouver finds a path to contention.

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