The Top 25 Under 25 is a collaboration by members of the Die By The Blade community. It was a combination of six staff writers and over 485 fans that ranked players under the age of 25 as of August 10, 2021. Each participant used their own metric of current ability and production to rank each player.
If you take anything away from this write-up, it should be that Aaron Huglen is a battler. He picked up an innocuous-seeming injury while lifting weights in the gym, and that turned into something quite horrible, resulting in a COVID-delayed surgery and a 20-month layoff that he only returned from earlier this year.
The Buffalo Sabres wanted him during that 2019 draft – he was expected to go in the 90s and when he was available still into the hundreds, Jason Botterill traded the 122nd and 175th picks and nabbed him at #102. Corey Pronman was impressed enough by his high hockey IQ and talent to call Huglen one of the best pure-skill draftees outside the first round in his review of the 2019 draft class.
What he’s most known for is this ‘lacrosse goal’ for the USA against Canada, and it can’t hurt to watch it a few more times.
— CJ Fogler #BlackLivesMatter (@cjzero) August 11, 2018
Huglen has committed to the University of Minnesota for the 2021-22 season where he will play alongside fellow 2019 Sabres draft pick defenseman Ryan Johnson. Last season when he was finally able to suit up again for the Fargo Force in the USHL, he scored at a healthy 0.90 points per game clip, good enough for 43rd in the league and second on his team. Huglen led his 4th-seeded Force side to the Western Conference Playoff title, and only lost 3-1 to an all-conquering Chicago Steel in the Clark Cup Finals.
This season he will have a chance to develop in a renowned hockey program and the Sabres will be in a much better position come next year to decide if they will be offering him an entry level contract or not. It’s easy to say that he has not made any strides since he has stayed at the #24 spot since last year, but that is not quite telling the full story of Huglen’s ability and potential.