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NHL Draft Profile: Cameron Hughes

Patrick Barron

The Player

Name: Cameron Hughes

Position: Center

Team: University of Wisconsin(Big Ten)

2014-2015 stats: 34 games played, 3 goals, 10 assists, 13 points, -17, 64 shots on goal

Final NHL Central Scouting Rank: 196th among North American skaters

What are his strengths and weaknesses?

Hughes is an exceptional skater with a strong, smooth stride. He played center in his freshman year at Wisconsin and moves well enough and has the hockey IQ to potentially stay up the middle at the next level.

On the downside, Hughes was physically over-matched in his first year of college hockey last season. He struggled to win individual puck battles and keep the puck out of his own end of the ice. He's a decent passer, but with a shooting percentage under 5% last year, he could definitely improve his shot.

Is he trending up or down in his draft year?

Hughes likely should have been playing junior hockey last season as a late-'96 birthdate, but enrolled at Wisconsin to play for a very young, undermanned Badger team. It was an absolutely horrendous year for the Badgers. Offense was very hard to come by for the entire team, Hughes included. Putting up small offensive numbers and playing for one of the worst teams in the country did little to help build hype for Hughes.

He did show improvement over the course of the season, however, including some increased offensive production late in the season. Nine of his 13 points came in the second half of the season, including a stretch of five points in five games in early-February.

Where is he projected to go in the draft?

Hughes slid towards the bottom of the NHL Central Scouting rankings after this season, and there's a chance he might not be drafted at all. It was just too tough to get a solid read on him. Due to Wisconsin's roster issues, he was forced to play a bigger role than a player his age should have been expected to and he struggled for much of the year. If he had stayed in the Alberta Junior Hockey League for an extra season and torn up that league with strong offensive numbers, he would likely be a solid mid-round draft pick. As it stands, he's looking like a fifth round or later draft pick if a team is willing to gamble on him making a big improvement in the next few years.

How does he project as a pro?

Given more time to develop, Hughes could project as a nice second or third line centerman that plays a strong two-way game. It's unlikely he's ever a big point producer at the pro level, but his skating is good enough that he'll be able to hold a spot in the line-up for most any team.

Where will he go next?

Hughes will return to Wisconsin for his sophomore season. It doesn't look like Wisconsin's team will be significantly better next year. But that means that Hughes should see ample playing time, and with another year of physical maturity under his belt, he should be better equipped to handle the rigors of college hockey and be more of an impact player. Because Hughes enrolled in college a year early, it would make sense for whichever team that drafts him to let him play out his college eligibility before making a decision on signing him.