There isn’t much positive to take from Jack Hughes’ injury that will keep him out for the rest of the season. It does give Nico Hischier the chance to increase his offensive production for the New Jersey Devils.
The New Jersey Devils got bad news on Tuesday when MSG Networks announced that Jack Hughes was going to be out for the rest of the season. It takes the Devils’ best player off the ice for the final 12 games of the season (13 if you count the Rangers game they already lost). It takes one of the only reasons left to watch Devils hockey away, and now we’re just here searching for answers.
Hughes was phenomenal this season. He had 56 points in 49 games, and there is a good chance he will finish the season as the team leader in goals. He finishes his third season with 26, and he likely hits 30 if he doesn’t get hurt.
The good news is his injury is a mild MCL sprain, and if nothing goes wrong, he will likely be recovered by the time the season ends. There might not even be rehab involved. So, the Devils got out of this avoiding the worst-case scenario. That’s a rarity for the Devils this season.
So let’s try to find the positives out of this situation. It gives Nico Hischier a chance to be the top center on the team. He’s growing offensively this season. He’s third on the team with 50 points in 61 games. He had a slump that hurt his point totals slightly, but most fans wouldn’t be upset with a 50-55 point Nico Hischier season if it keeps growing to 60-70 next season.
Nico Hischier needs to take the opportunity that Jack Hughes’s injury gives to him.
Hischier is likely going to post a career high in points this season. In his rookie year, while playing with an MVP Taylor Hall, Hischier had 20 goals and 52 points. He needs two goals and three points in the last 12 games of the season to break those career highs.
With no Hughes in the lineup, HIschier is going to get all of the main offensive responsibilities. Dawson Mercer is the de facto second-line center for the rest of the season. Then there’s some combination of Jesper Boqvist, Pavel Zacha, and Michael McLeod on the other two lines down the middle. It’s clear that Hischier is the best option in offensive situations.
The Devils are going to try things out for the rest of the season, and it might lead to some interesting line combinations for Hischier. He started the last game with Miles Wood and Jesper Bratt on his wings. It evolved into the usual Zacha-Hischier-Bratt combination. Yegor Sharangovich is probably going to get his chance with Hischier eventually.
Hischier has just under Hischier’s average time on ice at 19:12 per game. He likely moves that closer to 19:30 or even higher by the end of the season. Lindy Ruff will lean on his captain in multiple situations, and HIschier will have to take Hughes’ role on the power play as well.
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If all goes well, Hischier could build some momentum into next season offensively. It’s clear he’s frustrated by how this season has gone, but it’s hard to believe anything can be as bad as this. Hopefully, he can take the best out of a bad situation and grow into a legit one-two punch with Hughes next season.