Buffalo Sabres GM Jason Botterill traded up in the fourth round of the 2019 NHL Draft to select Aaron Huglen of the Fargo Force (USHL) and Roseau High School (USHS-MIN).
— Greg Vorse TV (@GregVorse) June 22, 2019
Huglen was mainly known for his rendition of the “Michigan goal” against Canada at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup last August, but in drafting Huglen the Sabres got a raw prospect with loads of skill and a very high motor.
Huglen may be undersized, but he barely lets his opponent out-hustle or outwork him.
He spent his draft year splitting time between Rouseau High School and the Fargo Force of the USHL, putting up impressive numbers. Huglen scored 17 goals and52 total points in 24 games during his high school season, while adding four goals and 14 points in 28 games for the Force.
Huglen will spend one more year in the USHL with Fargo before heading to the University of Minnesota during the 2020 season. The Sabres acknowledged that he is a multi-year project but with the right plan in place they could be rewarded with a very solid player in the future.
At 5-11, 165 Huglen may be considered an undersized forward but he makes up for his size with his effort and competitiveness. At times he may still be pushed around easily, but no one can ever question if he gives his all.
This play is from a Rouseau-Grand Rapids game in December, Huglen (#8 in green) battles hard for a loose puck in his defensive crease, recovers it and skates the puck behind his own net and away from the danger of the other team.
It’s a small play, and may not jump off the page to many but seeing him battle on the defensive side of the play to get the puck away from danger is very encouraging.
Usually players who are so dominant and so much more skilled than his opponents could tend to take a shift off, or not try as hard on defence but Huglen shows on this play that he always gives maximum effort.
This play is from the semi-finals of the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup against Canada and is probably my favorite Huglen play.
Huglen (#12 USA) overpowers the much bigger Canadian defender for control of the loose puck.
A prime example of his high-motor and his ultra competitive spirit. It doesn’t matter that he’s smaller than his opponent, Huglen goes after the puck with full speed and strength and outwills his man for the puck.
Speed and Skating Ability
Aside from his high-motor, Huglen is also a gifted skater. The Sabres used their first few draft picks on players who possess potentially elite skating ability (Dylan Cozens, Ryan Johnson and Huglen).
From the same game against Canada at the Hlinka-Gretzky, Hugle uses his speed and skating to close in on the defender then he out-muscles the defender to steal the puck and set-up his teammate in the slot for a scoring chance.
If Huglen wants to develop into an NHLer, using his skating ability to his advantage will be key. He is a competetive and highly skilled player, but his skating ability will be his biggest asset.
You can have all the skill in the world, but if you aren’t a good skater it’s extremely tough to standout at the junior, college and professional levels.
The speed and the high-motor are two key aspects that will help Huglen as he continues his career at higher levels but his raw skill and high confidence with the puck are the reason the Sabres traded up for him.
He put himself on the map with his highlight-reel goal against Canada…
If you’re a hockey fan you likely saw this goal, this was a once in a lifetime goal that everyone dreams of scoring. Huglen had not only the skill, but the confidence as well to try something like this in a semi-final of a major U18 hockey tournament.
This goal was his shining moment but Huglen was one the American’s best players during that semi-final loss to Canada even without this amazing goal.
Huglen scored twice in five games at the Hlinka-Gretzky…obviously the “Michigan” was the one everyone remembers but his other goal was a very good display of his skill.
Huglen gets the puck on a breakaway, makes a beautiful deke on the Czech goaltender before beating him with a very nice backhand.
This goal is from a Rouseau-Grand Rapids game, it may be against lesser competition but it’s still an equally impressive display of his offensive capabilities.
Huglen (#8 green) gets the puck in the corner, backs the defenders off him as he brings the puck into a dangerous shooting area before unleashing a very good shot that beats the Grand Rapids goalie.
As a fourth round pick, he’s an obvious project but well-respected people in the hockey world were high on this kid.
In his article grading the Sabres draft clas The Athletic’s Corey Pronman said “he’s a high skill/IQ forward and is one of the most purely skilled players that will get picked outside of the first round.”
There’s a long road ahead of him, and he has a lot of work to do…but if Huglen can continue working on his game and add some more strength he could possibly be a player to watch in a few years.
Out of any of the non-first round picks, Huglen is the most intriguing and he will definitely be a name to watch for Fargo during the USHL next season.
It’s far from a guarantee, but Huglen could be the 2019 version of Oskari Laaksonen if everything goes well over the next two years.