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Kent Hughes Has What it Takes for Montreal

The new GM was a power player in the agency business and has a unique perspective on prospect development.
Kent Hughes. Photo courtesy Quartexx Hockey.

Kent Hughes. Photo courtesy Quartexx Hockey.

It's one of the most high-profile and high-pressure jobs in the sporting world and the man hired by the Montreal Canadiens to be their new GM certainly has the traits to make it work.

Kent Hughes, the former player agent with Quartexx Management, takes over the reins in Montreal after decades of experience in the industry. He's a local, so he knows the expectations of a fan base that expects championships but hasn't clinched one since 1993. And his work with Quartexx, particularly in recent years, puts him in the right headspace for the Habs job.

Because Hughes wasn't just a rep for the likes of Patrice Bergeron and Kris Letang; he also led an agency that has made significant growth in recent years. Quartexx was founded in 2015 by Quebec's powerful Saputo family and soon after merged with MFive Sports, headed by Hughes and Anton Thun and featuring plugged-in agents such as Phil Lecavalier and Paul Capizzano. Several years later, Quartexx merged with DHG, adding the dynamic duo of Darren Ferris and Ryan Barnes to the roster.

With everyone under one roof, Hughes did an excellent job of propelling the agency forward and that sort of leadership will be key with the Canadiens, where he will work with new executive VP Jeff Gorton and determine what the Habs' staff will look like: Keep in mind it wasn't just Marc Bergevin fired earlier this season but also long-time assistant GM Trevor Timmins, known for years as Montreal's draft guy.

Speaking with colleagues, Hughes is seen as a great communicator and listener who brings everyone on the team in when it comes to input. He sees the positives in people and wants to do things the right way: When you work with Hughes, you learn how to think deeply on a subject.

Hughes also has a unique angle on development since he has two sons currently going through the process: Riley Hughes is a New York Rangers draft pick, while Jack D. Hughes is a 2022 prospect who looks like a pretty safe first-rounder right now. Both are playing at Northeastern University in Boston and their dad has obviously kept close tabs on their careers to date.

Funny enough, the Canadiens have two draft picks playing for the Huskies right now in defensemen Jayden Struble and Jordan Harris, both of whom could turn pro this spring.

But of course there will be challenges for the new GM as Montreal is one of the worst teams in the league right now. The Habs have a number of ugly contracts on the books, many of which would be difficult to get rid of.

The one saving grace is that Montreal is so bad that they will likely keep their 2022 first-round pick based on the conditions of the Christian Dvorak trade with Arizona: If the Habs pick is top 10 (which it almost certainly will be), then the Coyotes get Carolina's first-rounder instead, which was acquired by Montreal as compensation for offer-sheet RFA Jesperi Kotkaniemi.

So long story short, the Habs could very well get top prospect center Shane Wright this summer at the draft - which is being held in Montreal, no less. Even if they pick second, Hughes and crew could take another promising pivot in Logan Cooley of the NTDP, thus providing a glimpse of hope up the middle.

In terms of drafting and development, the Habs have been hit hard at the high end in recent years. Kotkaniemi's departure for Carolina doesn't erase the memory of Montreal taking the lanky Finn over Brady Tkachuk and Quinn Hughes, but at least the Habs got some nice picks in return for the offer sheet - so maybe new management can make amends.

The next calendar year will be crucial to the Habs as they must make sure to handle the development of the next generation properly, starting with Cole Caufield, Alexander Romanov and Nick Suzuki. The likes of Jan Mysak and Kaiden Guhle are having great seasons in major junior, while Riley Kidney looked like a smart pick at the time and looks just as good now.

Coming in with a fresh perspective, Hughes should be afforded some time to put his plan (and his people) into place, but he has all the tools to do this job right. And if we've learned anything from Bill Zito's success in Florida, it's that bringing in an agent to be your GM can be a really good thing for an NHL franchise.

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