New Jersey Devils: Taking An Early Look At Jack Hughes

EVERETT, WA - DECEMBER 15: USA Hockey forward Jack Hughes (6) waits his turn for a drill during the first USA practice on Saturday, December 15, 2018 at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett, WA. (Photo by Christopher Mast/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
EVERETT, WA - DECEMBER 15: USA Hockey forward Jack Hughes (6) waits his turn for a drill during the first USA practice on Saturday, December 15, 2018 at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett, WA. (Photo by Christopher Mast/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

The New Jersey Devils are much closer to the worst team in the league than they are to making the playoffs. Therefore, we have decided to ignore the subpar product that this team is giving us, and instead focus on number-one 2019 draft prospect Jack Hughes.

The New Jersey Devils just got blown out again. The team looked back, and we need a distraction. I won’t even mention the latest game, because there’s no point. Nothing of note happened besides the Devils getting smashed. So, let’s provide a distraction. The best distraction for a bad season is the player that can fix it next season.

Right now, the chase to the bottom comes with a massive prize. His name is Jack Hughes, and he’s an amazing hockey player.

He’s basically what happens when you build a hockey player in a lab, because he’s the human equivalent of that. His father is Jim Hughes, who played defense for Providence College and spent years as an assistant coach, and is now the director of player development for the Toronto Maple Leafs. His mother is Ellen. She played for Team USA’s silver medal winning team in 1992.

They got together, got married and had three kids who live and breath hockey. Now, they are three of the best prospects, and could become the best hockey family in recent memory.

Let’s focus on Jack, because once Luke Hughes is eligible we hope the Devils have figured things out.

Hughes has some of the best skill we’ve seen coming up for the number one pick. He’s extremely elusive, and even at 17 years old he can skate around NHL defensemen. That’s probably his best skill at this point. At 16 years old, he scored 116 points at USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program. He was one point shy of the record. That’s held by Auston Matthews, who if you didn’t know how good he was just watch the last Devils game (I know I said I wasn’t going to mention it, but it was right there).

Jack Hughes plays center, which all of a sudden is a position of need for the Devils. Despite using first-round picks on centers in 2015, 2016 and 2017. One would think that the Devils should be golden down the middle for the next decade, but that’s not the case.

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Nico Hischier is great. That’s all we have to say about him. He’s in his second year, he’s 19 years old and he’s a top 20 first-line center in the league. He needs to shoot more, but that’s literally it right this second. Michael McLeod is a huge question mark right now. He’s been promoted to the first line in Binghamton, so that’s nice, but he only has five goals in 28 games. After he scored 27 goals in 57 games in 2016-17, we thought we had a great number two in the making. That doesn’t seem to be the case.

Don’t even get me started on Pavel Zacha. The Devils current number-two center will no doubtedly end up as the Devils number four by next season. It’s his destiny it seems. He’s an elite penalty killer, a decent defensive center, but he is a sieve when it comes to offense.

So, the Devils need a center again. They really need a center who can score. Hughes best asset is setting up his teammates, but he can also hit the back of the net. On his under 18 team last season, he scored 27 goals in 38 games. So far through 25 games this season, he has 48 points.

Those numbers are insane. He’s not being compared to even Patrick Kane or Matthews, other American players who were picked first overall, people are wondering if he can be Connor McDavid or Sidney Crosby.

So, how would Hughes fit on this Devils team? For the sake of argument, let’s pretend that Ray Shero disappears again this offseason, and he signs nobody. Hughes would immediately slot into the Devils second line. Hischier, Kyle Palmieri and Taylor Hall have really good chemistry, so Hughes could find chemistry with his own linemates. He would likely slot with Jesper Bratt and another young player. Me personally, I’m hoping that ends up being Jesper Boqvist, but it could end up being McLeod, John Quenneville or someone who comes out of the woodwork. Either way, it’s likely that line would be one of the youngest in the league.

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Is Jack Hughes good enough to throw away this season? This is not the article to make that distinction, but he’s so good that he would be the number one center even with Hischier on this team. Think about this, in three years the Devils could have Hischier, Hughes, McLeod and Zacha down the middle. Nobody on that list would even be 25 at that point.

Hughes would be a perfect fit for the Devils, and with the rest of the prospects graduating to the NHL, this is likely a very good team in just a couple years. There is hope on the horizon, and part of that hope might be on the shoulders of Jack.