Tri-City Americans

Ams's Hughesman drawing attention in Best of West

KENNEWICK -- No one quite knew what to expect from Adam Hughesman this season, but the Tri-City Americans forward knew what he wanted to do -- and has met those goals.

After an outstanding rookie season in 2007-08 when he had 17 goals and 41 points, Hughesman didn't show much improvement in his numbers the next two years.

This season, the Winnipeg, Manitoba, native has 36 goals -- twice what he had last season -- and was fifth in league scoring with 75 points through Friday's 5-0 victory at Portland.

"I may have surprised people, but this is what I expected of myself," said Hughesman, who also has 39 assists. "I feel I should have been at this goal total last year."

Hughesman's climb up the scoring ladder hasn't gone unnoticed among his peers and Western Conference coaches. He was voted as the Most Underrated Player and was second in voting in the Most Improved Player category in this year's Best of the West poll.

"That's an honor. It's great to have some recognition from your peers," Hughesman said. "I appreciate that. Hopefully I can continue to have a good year."

Hughesman is the third Tri-City player to win the award in the last seven years. Clayton Stoner won in 2005 and Ian McDonald in 2006.

Hughesman, 19, has been at the top of his game from the start of the season.

He won the team's fitness award during training camp, then was one of a few veterans left during the preseason as the Americans had seven players invited to NHL camps.

"That's what we are all here for, to make it to the next level," Hughesman said. "You hear about the great experiences at camp, and we're all trying to get there. I hope to get my chance."

It would be hard to ignore what Hughesman has accomplished this season.

He leads the Americans in goals scored and scoring. He has 18 power-play goals -- second best in the WHL -- and a plus-19 rating. He is averaging 1.47 points per game.

Unlike the last two seasons when Hughesman's productivity diminished after the Christmas break, he has kept an even keel this year. He had 20 goals and 22 assists at the holiday break in 32 games. He has 16 goals and 17 assists in the last 20 games.

Tri-City has reaped the benefits of Hughesman's success. The Americans are in a tight race for the U.S. Division title with Portland and Spokane.

"It has been a pretty good year," Hughesman said. "I've been pretty fortunate to play as well as I have. I have had great help from my teammates and coaches."

With injuries and suspensions throughout the lineup, Hughesman has played on a line with just about everyone. Presently, he is paired with center Brendan Shinnimin and right wing Carter Ashton.

"I played with Shinny early on before he was suspended, then I was with Mason (Wilgosh) and David Conrad," Hughesman said. "I have had great chemistry with all those guys. It's nice to have chemistry with a bunch of guys on the team, not a just a couple."