Jack Hughes is really coming into his own over the past few games. The New Jersey Devils could find him a really good pairing with a winger they originally attempted to pair him with.
The New Jersey Devils lines have been in a blender for the past two weeks. This has especially hurt Jack Hughes, as he’s finally finding his game. There’s a problem with his chemistry with his teammates because he’s played with just about everyone. For the last two games, Hughes played with Jesper Boqvist and Wayne Simmonds. The two games before that, Hughes was with Miles Wood and Kyle Palmieri. On November 13th, he was on a line with Palmieri and Taylor Hall.
You get the point. Hughes has played with eight different line combinations this season. Head coach John Hynes hasn’t stuck with line combinations for more than three games. As soon as the Devils lose, he seems to switch things around. It seems like everything has to change completely.
Well, it might be time to try the combination we thought we were getting in the first place. Nikita Gusev originally seemed like the perfect pair with Hughes. They both do really good work as distributing the puck, but Gusev as a professional knows how to finish. Hughes was already elite at passing. He’s 18 years old, but he’s playing like Joe Thornton at times.
When Hughes and Gusev were originally together, but they were getting pinned in their own zone on every possession. Gusev had a lot of issues at first, but after spending some time watching the game from the owner’s box and playing games on a line with Travis Zajac and Blake Coleman, he’s no longer spending most of his time in the defensive zone. The same goes for Hughes.
In his last game, Gusev was separated from Zajac and Coleman, but he still dominated in 5v5. He had a CF% of 68.75, third best on the team. In a loss against Boston, Gusev led the team with a 67.86 CF%. He also led the team against Montreal and was second against Vancouver. Basically, since he came back he’s been much better at possession.
Hughes has been begging for Simmonds and Boqvist to finish on his chances. He’s given them the puck in high-danger areas, but they haven’t put it home. Now that Gusev is scoring again, he could be that player putting it home.
Some people seem to really like the Boqvist and Hughes pairing. Here, we’re looking for more from Hughes’ partner. He is literally skating through defenses by himself, but has nothing to show for it. Gusev is making his own shots on his line. If you put them together, and they play like this, it’s going to be very hard to stop them.