Jack Hughes’ Surprise Teammates Could Lift New Jersey Devils Offense

Jack Hughes #86 of the New Jersey Devils. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Jack Hughes #86 of the New Jersey Devils. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

If we told you even two weeks ago that Jack Hughes would be starting training camp on a line without Yegor Sharangovich, most wouldn’t believe you. Hughes and Sharangovich have been really good for each other. While they both had some success away from each other, it seems the best we’ve seen of both of them was together. Yet, from day one, Lindy Ruff separated the two.

The New Jersey Devils first line consists of Hughes, rookie Alexander Holtz, and newly-signed Ondrej Palat. Hughes has a total of 57 seconds of ice time with the other two combined. That’s right, he has less than a minute with Holtz and Palat in the NHL. He probably spent more time on the ice against Palat than he has with Holtz.

Right from the beginning, there’s chemistry between these three. In their first preseason game together, they scored a fabulous goal.

Palat and Holtz did not give up on the play behind the net despite Sebastian Aho coming away with the puck. Holtz took it back and found Hughes right in front of the net. He sent it home, giving the Devils a 3-1 lead.

New Jersey Devils found a great pairing in Jack Hughes, Alex Holtz, and Ondrej Palat.

Obviously, the Devils spent a lot giving this team balance. They added Palat in this offseason, but they also added John Marino, Brendan Smith, Erik Haula, and Vitek Vanecek. The Devils needed help in a lot of areas. That’s what happens when you’re one of the worst teams in the league. However, GM Tom Fitzgerald seems to be making the right moves on offense. The team is scoring at all levels, and it seems to especially be working with the Hughes-Holtz-Palat line.

This line seems like it’s going places. Palat spent most of his time last season with either Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov, or some combination of the three. Palat knows what he needs to do to play with stars. He’s come to a Devils team with budding stars. He gets to lead them to success instead of the other way around.

Meanwhile, there’s Holtz, who didn’t show enough to stick in the NHL last season. While he scored just under a point per game, including 26 goals in 52 games (which would be a 41-goal pace if it was 82 games), he scored zero goals on the NHL level. He only had two points in nine games.

However, Holtz has been working incredibly hard in the offseason to fix the flaws in his game. He wants to be more of a playmaker on top of a goal scorer. That’s what we saw on Tuesday night. During his 12 minutes at even strength, Holtz had three shots, created a rebound chance, drew a penalty, laid a hit, and created two high-danger chances himself. He did just about everything.

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This might be a perfect pairing. The Devils may have hit Hughes as he becomes a star, Holtz as he figured out all his problems and Palat as he’s ready to be a veteran presence while still having the skill to keep up with the first line. It seems like things might be hitting at the right time.