Tommy Hughes is a man of few words.
The London Knights defenceman, an absolute rock on the back end, became the newest member of the New York Rangers organization Monday after inking a three-year entry-level NHL contract.
Hughes, who went unselected in the past three NHL drafts, hasn’t flown under the radar only on the ice. Away from the battles in the corners, the 20-year-old Londoner goes about his business with minimal fuss.
“It’s pretty crazy,” said Hughes, pausing for a few seconds to collect himself while in the spotlight. “It still hasn’t really sunk in yet.”
The Rangers invited Hughes to their development camp last summer, but he was unable to attend because of a broken foot. New York’s scouting staff has chatted with Hughes for more than a year now, talking after games as recently as a couple of weeks ago.
Contract negotiations between management and his agent, however, didn’t heat up until a couple of weeks ago.
“I heard (the Rangers were ready to sign me) after Game 4 in Saginaw, so it wasn’t much of a distraction,” Hughes said. “It’s an Original Six team, which is pretty amazing.”
The stay-at-home blueliner was an OHL walk-on, graduating from the London Jr. Knights AAA major midget team for the 2009-10 season. Since, the 6-foot-2, 215-pounder has appeared in a total of 202 games in green and gold.
Over that time, Hughes has notched only four goals. Despite boasting a heavy shot, his value lives entirely in London’s end.
“He blocks shots, he’s fearless out there,” Knights head coach Dale Hunter said. “He just kept getting better and better every year.”
In the not-so-distant past, the Knights have developed a handful of pro defencemen cut from the same cloth, namely Ranger Dan Girardi and Ottawa Senator Marc Methot.
“They were like that for me when they were here, and that’s what Hughesy does for us,” Hunter said.
A trademark of Hughes’ game is his unorthodox skating style. Though it often appears like his long strides slow him down, Hunter insists it’s quite the opposite.
“He’s a very good skater. He’s fast. He stays in a crouch, which he should anyways, and he’s strong,” he said.
London Knights players signed to NHL contracts
- Tommy Hughes (New York Rangers, undrafted)
- Anthony Stolarz (Philadelphia Flyers, second round, 2012)
- Chris Tierney (San Jose Sharks, second round, 2012)
- Olli Maatta (Pittsburgh Penguins, first round, 2012)
- Scott Harrington (Pittsburgh Penguins, second round, 2011)
London Knights players drafted by NHL team but unsigned
- Justin Sefton (San Jose Sharks, third round, 2011)
- Alex Broadhurst (Chicago Blackhawks, seventh round, 2011)
- Josh Anderson (Columbus Blue Jackets, fourth round, 2012)
- Seth Griffith (Boston Bruins, fifth round, 2012)
- Ryan Rupert (Toronto Maple Leafs, sixth round, 2012)