Victoria Grizzlies land NHL draft pick Hughes

Thanks to Alex Newhook, the Victoria Grizzlies are pretty much guaranteed to have a 2019 NHL draft pick in their lineup when they hit the ice in September.

After Wednesday’s signing of Boston native Riley Hughes, the Grizzlies will also have a 2018 NHL draft pick on their team for the upcoming B.C. Hockey League season.

Hughes, a offensively skilled winger, was selected in the seventh round of last month’s NHL entry draft by the New York Rangers.

Hughes, who turned 18 last month, says he’s not too familiar with the Grizzlies’ new captain and reigning BCHL rookie of the year Newhook, but he expects that to change in a hurry as the two could find themselves linemates this season. They’ll have plenty to talk about as Newhook is committed to Boston College for the fall of 2019, and Hughes will play his NCAA hockey in 2019 at Beanpot Tournament rival Northeastern.

“I’m sure we’ll become friends pretty quick with the season starting soon, but when we’re in college, yah, it might be a different story,” laughed Hughes.

“That’s a pretty big rivalry, especially during the Beanpot [the annual tournament between the four Boston-area NCAA universities that is played at the home of the NHL’s Bruins].”

Hughes will have some backup in the Grizzlies’ locker-room when it comes to Northeastern. Recently signed Grizzlies defenceman Jeremie Bucheler is also committed to Northeastern.

“I’ve heard the name but I’ve never met him, but it’ll be great to meet a future college teammate,” Hughes said.

Hughes is coming off an impressive senior season of high school hockey with St. Sebastian School where he scored 21 goals and 36 points in 30 games to draw the attention of the Rangers. And following the draft he quickly headed to New York for the NHL team’s prospects camp.

“The development camp was a great experience,” said Hughes, who stands 6-foot-1 and weighs in at 180 pounds.

“I got to meet a lot of recent draft picks, some of whom had played pro in the AHL, so I learned a lot and now I want to build off that and have a great season in Victoria.”

Hughes said he had a lot of options for this coming season, including the USHL, but the BCHL was too good an opportunity to pass up, and the Rangers agreed.

“Just looking at the kind of team the Grizzlies are going to have and I heard the BCHL is an offensive league, which I liked, so it just seemed to be a perfect fit for me,” Hughes said.

Grizzlies GM and head coach Craig Didmon agreed.

“Riley is a gifted offensive player, which is perfect for this league, so we’re happy to have him and I think our fans are going to be in for a treat watching him play because he can be exciting to watch,” said Didmon, whose club is set to open training camp on Aug. 20.

Hughes may be a stranger to Victoria, but he’s more than familiar with the country he’s about to reside in. Although born in the Boston area, Hughes’ parents are both Canadians from Montreal.

“Yah, I have a lot of relatives in Eastern Canada so we go up there quite often,” added Hughes.

But Boston is first and foremost in his heart. And so is Northeastern.

“I’m a Boston kid so Northeastern is what most Boston boys shoot for.

“The school has done a great job of developing pro players lately so that was a big plus for me.”

And one of those pro players from Northeastern is likely to become a household name in B.C. Adam Gaudette left Northeastern last spring after winning the Hobey Baker Award as the NCAA’s top player and is set to embark on his pro career with the Vancouver Canucks.

“Adam is well known in these parts because he’s from here as well and I know him well because he went to prep school at Thayer Academy, which is a huge rival of my school. Great player, too. Canucks got a good one.”

It looks like the Grizzlies have, too.

“We hope to continue Riley’s development this coming season and we expect him to play a big role with our club so we’re all looking forward to the season,” Didmon said.

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