After growing up and playing minor hockey in the greater Toronto area, Bobby Hughes was taken in the 2003 OHL Priority Selection Draft by the Kingston Frontenacs. From there, his approach to the game changed was forever changed.
During the 2003-04 season, his rookie year with Kingston, Hughes realized it was a big jump from midget AAA. He immediately noticed that the league as a whole moved a lot faster and was a tad bigger. Not one of the bigger players out there at the time, he approached the year as a learning experience and was determined to have fun with it.
Regardless, he was confident he could make the transition. As he would settle in, Hughes would go on to develop into a steady two-way player by making the right adjustments to the league.
Today, as one of the Frontenacs top stars, Hughes helped Kingston turn in one of their strongest performances in six years. The team finished with a 34-24-4-3 record and 81 points, good for second in the East Division, behind the Peterborough Petes. He finished the season as the team’s fourth leading scorer with 75 points (35 goals, 40 assists) in just 56 games played. He missed a few weeks in March, but returned for the playoffs, and stayed in the lineup despite injuries to both his groin and shoulder.
Heading into Vancouver and the 2006 NHL Entry Draft next month, Hockey’s Future caught up with Hughes who is back home with his family in Stouffville, Ontario while he anxiously awaits for the 24th day of June. He talked about playing with Kingston this past season and his mindset going into the draft.
HF: Over the last three seasons, you have made a lot of progress. What has changed along the way? How did your role evolve with the team?
BH: I think it has a lot to do with my confidence level growing over the years. I was moving more into a leadership role because of my experience and because I was seeing more time with the puck.
HF: During the past season, you were playing on the top line with Cory Emmerton and Chris Stewart (both 2006 eligible). How was it to play with those two guys?
BH: It was good because we could move the puck around and we played well together. We knew each other very well off the ice and we hung out a lot and that was good.
HF: How much does it help having that chemistry with your linemates as well as a year of playing with each other?
BH: I think it helped quite a bit because we actually started playing together towards the end of the 2004-05 season and we started to get to know each other a bit more.
HF: You had that extra year under your belt; do you think the guys look up to you in any fashion?
BH: I don’t think so. I think it had more to do just how well we fed off each other. We all helped each other out and were there to criticize each other constructively when needed.
HF: The three of you seem to have a higher level of support for each other, does it make things that much easier on the ice?
BH: Yeah it does. If you’re having a bad night, they’ll say something and pick you up in that respect and vice versa.
HF: Looking back to last season with Kingston, all three of you came out and had pretty solid campaigns. Did any of you have an idea that you would all go on to be that explosive?
BH: To a degree. We all knew what we were capable of. We knew what we wanted coming in and I think we still feel we could have done a bit better. Overall I think we’re all satisfied.
HF: Another valuable player in that equation was fellow defenseman Ben Shutron, who is also a 2006 eligible player. How was it to play with him?
BH: He’s a wild guy back there who loves to pump the guys up. He’s a pretty good offensive threat, who really knows what he’s doing. Ben is a good guy to have on the power play. He’s also able to help get the offense rolling when it’s not clicking.
HF: You poured it on during November scoring seven goals and registering 11 assists in 12 games. What was going right for you during that stretch?
BH: I think I was just getting some good bounces. I wasn’t trying too hard and I found a comfort zone out there.
HF: How was it to be named CHL player of the week during that month?
BH: It was a great honor. Not too many guys get that recognition. It was another big confidence booster for me.
HF: What was up with the Mohawk haircut this past year?
BH: I don’t remember why it happened but I know we were goofing around. We thought we would just go out and do it. It worked pretty well because I happened to get one of my hat tricks during that time.
HF: Talk about your hat tricks against Owen Sound and Belleville this past year.
BH: I would say that those happened to be nights where things seemed to be going my way. I was just working at it and didn’t give up. It also seemed that the harder I worked, the better the bounces were coming. Those were definitely good nights because I was getting the puck from my teammates and I was getting some good bounces.
HF: What is the feeling you get when you’re out there and you’re on top of your game?
BH: I think it is one of the best feelings to be out there playing because you’re having so much fun and you’re scoring. And then there’s winning. It is another one of the best feelings in the world.
HF: The flipside to that would be adversity. You had a couple injuries this past season. How do you challenge yourself through the down times?
BH: It is really tough because you want to go in there and play and sometimes you get mad at the training staff. It’s hard because you know that they want what is best for you by keeping you out of the lineup to get healthy.
HF: When you’re in a situation like that, how important is it for you bounce back as soon as you can?
BH: I really learned this year that your health is more important than missing a couple of games.
HF: Being that it was your draft year, did you change anything to your approach to the season?
BH: It changed a little bit. It was a bit more important and there was a lot riding on this past season. I put a lot of pressure on myself to excel this year.
HF: Did the added pressure help you or did you find it to be overbearing at times?
BH: Sometimes it got to be a bit. I just relaxed, tried not to think about it that much and go out and play.
HF: How was it play in the 2006 CHL/NHL Top Prospect game up in Ottawa?
BH: That was a neat experience, especially when you had Don Cherry behind the bench giving you pointers. We had a great time and it was a good place for all of us to showcase our talent.
HF: Did you change your approach there or did you just go out there and play your game?
BH: Heading into the game, I was very nervous. Once it got going, I started to relax and played it like any other game.
HF: How do you see yourself as a player?
BH: I see myself as a good all-around player. I can play on the power play and chip in points and I can also get out there on the penalty kill and block shots.
HF: What are some areas where you feel that there is some room for improvement?
BH: I need to work on my size, strength and to get bigger. I need to go out there and be a leader for the younger guys and bring them along. I would also like to round out my game.
HF: Moving ahead to Vancouver and the draft. Does anything change for you after you hear your name called?
BH: I don’t think so to be honest. I mean I’m very excited and nervous but I wish for the best.
HF: In a lot of the pre-draft rakings, you’re listed relatively high. If you end up being a first round pick, do you change your approach after the fact?
BH: No. I think it is good because it is just another thing that I will have to help me go out there and show why I was a top pick. You can’t show any slack. I’m just going to go in there, make things happen for myself and work hard towards getting to the next level.
HF: A lot of kids live and die on the dream of playing in the NHL. You’re obviously one step closer to reaching that plateau. How much of that is a confidence booster to you?
BH: It’s been huge. To know that I’m ranked high up there, it just feels great to be recognized, especially back home now. People are keeping up with me and asking how I’m doing and what I think. It’s just great to be back around that.
HF: Finally, what do you think it is going to take for you to move on and be successful at the next level?
BH: Hard work and determination. I know what I’m capable of and if I stay focused and work hard, I’ll make it to the next level. You just got to want it enough.
Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.