Cameron Hughes: Providence’s diamond in the rough
Cameron Hughes has been quite the find for the Providence Bruins.
A 2015 sixth-round pick out of the University of Wisconsin, the 22-year old has 13 goals and 15 assists for 28 points along with a plus-10 rating in 50 games.
But what makes Hughes so special is his all-around two-way playmaking abilities. Hughes showcases his defensive prowess on a nightly basis through blocked shots and heavy back checks. Those traits compliment his gifted offensive skillset as the Edmonton native is finding his rhythm in his first full season of professional hockey.
“I feel good,” Hughes said on his first full season in Providence. “There’s ups and downs in every season, but [here], I’m playing with good players and learning a lot and everything’s going good right now.”
He is technically listed as a rookie but Hughes had 14 AHL games under his belt after reporting to Providence at the end of last season. He tallied three assists before being summoned to the press box for the Calder Cup Playoffs.
Hughes, who signed his entry-level deal last March, has had plenty of those ‘ups’ during the year, highlighted by his first career goal scored against Bridgeport back on Oct. 20. He burned the SoundTigers again eight days later with a hat trick in a 9:04 span in the second period during Providence’s 6-1 win over their division rivals.
The former Badgers captain has four multi-point games this season and his 28 points ranks him in the top-20 amongst rookie skaters in the American Hockey League. He sits one point behind Peter Cehlarik — currently in Boston — and 10 points behind Paul Carey, who scored 29 of his 38 points with the Belleville Senators before coming to Providence.
Hughes credits the players around him for the good startup his pro career; namely his linemates Jordan Szwarz and fellow rookie Karson Kuhlman, who earned his first promotion to Boston on Wednesday.
“They’re great. They support the puck so well,” Hughes said about Szwarz and Kuhlman. “We always know where each of us are going to be and we help each other out. They’re both outstanding players and it certainly helps to be with them.”
Providence’s recent 4-0 win over the Syracuse Crunch on Sunday was a microcosm of Hughes’ season as well as how talented his line is. The Szwarz-Kuhlman-Hughes trio combined for three goals and an assist with a plus-7 rating. Hughes opened the scoring with a pretty fortunate bounce off Syracuse goalie Connor Ingram just 1:06 into the game.
Hughes saw time on both the power play and penalty kill, a testament to his two-way skills. On one shift with the man down, Hughes set up Szwarz during a shorthanded break. Ingram robbed Szwarz, but Hughes — who earned third star of the game honors — made a strong backcheck afterward to keep the puck in the Syracuse zone and bleed more time off the clock.
As he develops into a three-zone player, Hughes knows that there are aspects in his game that must improve if he is to get a look from the big club. But his 200-foot play in Providence is a good start toward getting that first career trip up I-95.
“It’s learning how to play away from the puck,” Hughes said about the improvements.. “It’s a lot different than college, you have to use your teammates all the time, so learning about those kinds of plays. I also think [I can improve] my shot a little bit too.”