The New Jersey Devils were so lucky to win the first-overall pick in 2019. Jack Hughes was better than some people give him credit for in 2019-20.
Today just happens to be Jack Hughes‘ birthday so it is only fitting that he gets his grade today. The New Jersey Devils were incredibly lucky to win the NHL Draft Lottery in 2019 which meant they got to chose Jack with the first-overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft. He came in as an 18-year-old rookie and he had an up and down season. He has a lot of work to do but despite the underwhelming numbers this season, he showed that he can be prolific at times.
Jack Hughes only had 7 goals and 14 assists for 21 points in 61 games played. He was far below the point production that Nico Hischier had in his first year as the top-overall pick despite the scouting reports saying he was a much more gifted offensive player. Well, the point totals don’t tell the whole story for Jack. Someone who doesn’t do the research might sit there looking at his totals and think he was way overhyped.
Those people are wrong to think that. He played a lot of the season with players who had no business being on his line. Miles Wood and Wayne Simmonds are examples of players who can’t quite take advantage of playing with a player that is as dynamic as Hughes. When you look at how Hughes played with men like Taylor Hall or Blake Coleman, you are reminded of how good he will be if they ever find him some really good linemates. This is a kid with the talent to compete for scoring titles. It is up to the Devils to get him that level of talent around him.
Another thing that Hughes didn’t have going for him was luck in 2019-20. He didn’t have a high shooting percentage, bad linemates, lots of posts, and of course the scenery. In his rookie year at 18-years-old, he had his coach fired, the general manager who drafted him was fired, and an MVP caliber linemate was traded in a messy situation. The Devils have to make sure that Hughes’ luck changes in the future.
Final Grade: C+
A lot of people might expect a lower grade, but C+ is exactly what he deserves. It is no guarantee that a player has a lot of points in year one no matter where they were drafted. If you need proof, see a guy like Joe Thornton or Steven Stamkos‘ rookie year. Jack showed the ability to drive a line and make others around him better but things just didn’t always go in. Once they start going in at a realistic level, Hughes should be able to become one of the best point producers in the world.
The reason he is up at a C+ is that he made the best out of a horrible situation. The Devils were a mess all year long and Hughes still was able to show flashes of brilliance. He didn’t light the world on fire offensively like Connor McDavid or Auston Matthews did when they were the first overall pick but all of the data says he will be an elite player soon enough.