Quinn and Jack Hughes set for a strength vs. strength battle

Thursday, October 11, 2018 - 8:40pm

Sophomore defenseman Quinn Hughes will play against his younger brother Jack in an exhibition with the U.S. NTDP on Friday.

Sophomore defenseman Quinn Hughes will play against his younger brother Jack in an exhibition with the U.S. NTDP on Friday. Buy this photo
Katelyn Mulcahy/Daily

It’s not uncommon for Quinn and Jack Hughes to skate together.

The two brothers — Quinn, a sophomore defenseman on the Michigan hockey team and Jack, a forward for the U.S. National Team Development Program (NTDP) U-18 team — have played together for nearly their entire lives.

But Friday will be the first time the two take the ice to play against each other.

Last week, the Wolverines (0-1) got off to a slow start against Vermont as they fell, 5-2, in the first game of the season. After beating Waterloo in an exhibition matchup the following Sunday, Friday’s game is a chance for Michigan to finish shaking off the early-season cobwebs.

Exhibition games are usually thought of as an easy win for the home team, maybe a chance to give some playing time to younger players and help the team settle into the season.

This game doesn’t have the makings of a classic exhibition game.

The NTDP features Jack Hughes, who is already considered a candidate for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NHL draft. If that isn’t reason enough, last weekend the NTDP defeated last year’s national runner-up Notre Dame — in South Bend.

“I think it’s a good sign, in a way, for our players,” Michigan coach Mel Pearson said. “It’s a good reminder to our players that (the NTDP is) a good team and that they can beat anybody. We’re gonna have to play, and that’s why you schedule this game.”

And the matchup has the added bonus of allowing the Hughes brothers to face off against each other in a real, five-on-five setting.

“I think it’s special any time you get an opportunity to play against your brother,” Pearson said. “I had the opportunity to do that in college, so it was pretty cool. It’s interesting because I think you compete harder.

“I don’t know how they feel about it, but I always thought it was pretty neat playing against my brother — and competitive. Probably competed harder against him than anybody else, and I’m sure these guys have a little bit of compete in them too.”

Quinn said he’d rather play with his brother than against him, but it’s clear that if he must play against his brother, he wants to be the victorious one.

“I think we’re not really worried about trash talking or anything like that. I think he just wants to win, and I want to win,” Quinn said. “He wants to bring his A game and I want to bring my A game, that’s all it is.”

And with Jack playing forward and Quinn playing defense, there’s a reasonable chance the two brothers’ “A” games will come into direct contact.

Quinn’s skill as a defenseman led him be picked seventh overall in the 2018 NHL draft, and Jack has the pedigree of a top prospect, too. It’s a battle of strength vs. strength, only complicated by a family relationship.

This likely won’t be the last time the Hughes brothers face each other. But it’s the first, and it’ll be memorable, regardless of which brother wins.

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