They came to see Quinn Hughes.
They weren’t disappointed.
Hughes, a first-round draft pick of the Vancouver Canucks last June, was wearing the captain’s C for Team USA in their pre-World Junior tournament game against the Czech Republic on Saturday.
It was the 19-year-old defenceman’s first competitive game in front of his future hometown fans, as a pro-American crowd of over 4,000 came to see his skill on display at the Langley Events Centre.
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They got what they were looking for right away, as Hughes assisted on two goals in the first four minutes of the game.
Later on, they saw something they likely didn’t expect.
Hughes picked up 14 minutes in penalties on one play, leaving the game with 7:51 left in the third period, for sticking up for his teammate and younger brother Jack Hughes.
After a questionable hit on Jack, the early consensus No. 1 pick for the 2019 NHL Draft, Quinn went after Bruins draft pick Jakub Lauko. A bodycheck and two crosschecks later and the 5-foot-10 Canucks prospect was involved in an altercation with the bigger Czech forward.
Here’s how it went down:
Had a good angle on #canucks prospect Quinn Hughes #WJHC #USAWJC #Hughes pic.twitter.com/qRSg95CjqO
— Matt Maclaren (@MattMaclaren31) December 23, 2018
“Me and [Lauko] were going at it the entire game and I saw him hit a couple of other guys a little dirty and I didn’t appreciate that too much,” Quinn Hughes told reporters after the game.
Hughes received a standing ovation from the crowd, who appreciated his feistiness. The 14 minutes in penalties matches Hughes’ season total with Michigan this year. Known more for his skating and skill, he has 20 points in 17 games, ranking second among NCAA Division I defencemen this season.
“It was fun having the crowd behind you,” Hughes added. “It makes me more excited about my position (with the Canucks) here.”
Team USA is one of the favourites to challenge for gold at the World Juniors, which kicks off on Boxing Day in Vancouver and Victoria. The Americans have looked good in pre-tournament games, knocking off Russia 3-2 and beating the Czechs 6-2.
USA announced their final roster on Sunday morning, with Canucks third-round pick Tyler Madden joining Hughes on the team.
Canada’s final pre-tournament game is against Finland at Rogers Arena on Sunday. They begin the tournament December 26 against Denmark.