New Jersey Devils: There’s Nothing To Worry About Jack Hughes

New Jersey Devils center Jack Hughes (86): (Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)
New Jersey Devils center Jack Hughes (86): (Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports) /

The New Jersey Devils put up one of the worst performances in recent memory. Major mistakes against the Washington Capitals, a team they are winless against and just lost 24 hours ago, put any chances of winning in the ground. Turnovers almost always ended with the puck in the back of the net. One specific turnover that really hurt came off the stick of Jack Hughes.

Hughes was playing with Andreas Johnsson and Jesper Boqvist to start the game. It worked out terribly. Over three shifts in the first period, the Capitals got a breakaway and scored two goals. They just didn’t have the right chemistry to make something happen. Instead, they were the reason the Devils were losing.

That’s not what one wants to hear from the Devils star player. Hughes needs to be the reason this Devils team is winning. At the very least, he can’t be the reason they are losing. Head coach Lindy Ruff saw something was wrong, so he sat him for the rest of the period. Hughes only ended up playing 87 seconds of ice time in the first period. Ruff confirmed that he was benched, but said he liked how he responded to the move in the second and third periods.

There is nothing to worry about with Jack Hughes.

This obviously has some Devils fans nervous. After Hughes struggled to do just about anything last season, his current pointless streak feels familiar. He has zero points in eight of the past nine games. Frustration is clearly boiling over, and Hughes is trying to score on his own when he’s on the ice. His wingers have been a problem, but it’s clear that Hughes is also pressing. He looks like Palmieri did earlier in the year when he was desperate to score. Usually, when a player is desperate to score, the opposite happens.

Still, this is just a blip on the development radar for Hughes. He’s still only 19 years old. One of the main reasons that Hughes doesn’t have the numbers of some other great young players is the power-play points. Jack Eichel’s 19-year-old season saw him score 56 points in a full season. He had 21 PPP. Hughes has four this season out of his 16 points. Their 5v5 points per game are close.

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Hughes’ linemates on the power play are Miles Wood and then a rotating forward like Johnsson or NIck Merkley. Pair that with P.K. Subban and Damon Severson. When Subban is the only other option on the PP that really has a chance to score, it doesn’t lead to points. The Devils power play is pathetic on most nights anyway. Putting this as a line sequence makes it not surprising they can’t score. Hughes spends a lot of time on the half wall, and the other team swarms him as soon as he gets the puck since he’s the only one who can make his own play. He should at least play with Jesper Bratt on the power play.

Hughes is still playing incredibly well at other aspects of the game. According to Natural Stat Trick, his xG% is second on the team to the surprising Dmitry Kulikov. His high-danger chance for percentage is fourth on the team while his high-danger goals for is 10th. There is a lot of luck involved in Hughes’ season, and there really isn’t anything to worry about.

Unfortunately, the Devils aren’t good this season. They don’t have a true direction, and it’s leading to some poor efforts on the ice. Still, Hughes is the least of this team’s worries. They have to figure out how to get this team playing as a cohesive unit. The lines aren’t clicking, and Ruff constantly changes them. The trade deadline should give the team some clarity. Hopefully, Hughes goes on a run at the end of the season. Even if he doesn’t and he ends the season with half a point per game, there’s nothing to worry about with Hughes.