New Jersey Devils: Evaluating Jack Hughes Halfway Through The Season

NEWARK, NEW JERSEY - DECEMBER 09: Jack Hughes #86 of the New Jersey Devils skates in warm-ups prior to the game against the New York Islanders at the Prudential Center on December 09, 2022 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
NEWARK, NEW JERSEY - DECEMBER 09: Jack Hughes #86 of the New Jersey Devils skates in warm-ups prior to the game against the New York Islanders at the Prudential Center on December 09, 2022 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /
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New Jersey Devils fans are witnessing how special Jack Hughes is as a player. Hughes was able to dominate once again in the Devils’ most recent game against the New York Rangers. He scored two goals (with 11 shots on goal), one assist, and drew two penalties while registering 23:08 of ice time. His two goals weren’t just run-of-the-mill goals, they saved the Devils from suffering yet another loss at the Prudential Center.

His first goal helped stop the Rangers’ momentum when they got off to a 2-0 lead. Then his second goal came late in the third period that tied the game, thus shifting the momentum back into the Devils’ favor. As a result, the Devils were able to win in overtime against their cross-river rival, thanks to Damon Severson.

Hughes has been phenomenal, but I don’t believe fans realize how good he has been this season. When comparing Hughes’ current season to Taylor Hall’s Hart Trophy campaign during the 2017-18 season at the 40-game mark, Hughes has a few more points (49) than Hall (42 points). Unfortunately for Hughes, Connor McDavid (77 points) and Leon Draisaitl (62 points) are playing at an elite level. So, his chances of winning the Hart Trophy are extremely unlikely. But it still shouldn’t take away from his achievements so far.

Coming into the season, a lot of people didn’t have high expectations for the Devils. However, the Devils were able to surprise a lot of people and went on a 13-game “heater” at one point. Hughes really started to ramp up his production toward the end of November when he was able to net five goals in three games. Three of those goals came on the same night when he was able to earn his first-career hat trick against the Washington Capitals on November 26th.

Despite the Devils’ struggles during December, Hughes was still able to elevate his game. He registered 15 points in 13 games and is continuing his success into January. So far, he has eight points this month and was recently named the NHL’s second star of the week. He’s currently eighth in goals scored in the NHL with 26. All of his hard work seems to be paying off because he was recently named an all-star for the second straight year.

It’s been an interesting first half of the season for the Devils, and Hughes obviously plays a huge part in it. I caught up with Hughes postgame after the Devils’ big win on Saturday and he seems to be satisfied with his overall play and improvement, in addition to the team’s as well.

“It’s been good,” Hughes said. “Obviously, the team has taken a lot of steps, and you know personally I’ve been taking steps. It’s all a part of the journey and I feel like we’re in a good spot right now.”

Listen to the full discussion on one of the latest episodes of Locked On Devils.

Severson is one of the longest-tenured players on the Devils’ active roster along with Mackenzie Blackwood. So, as a veteran player, he was able to witness Hughes’ development ever since he made his debut in 2019. Severson also provided me with his perspective on Hughes’ growth as a player.

“It’s very impressive,” Severson said. “Everything he does on the ice is fun to watch and fun to be around. It’s nice to see him put in that work every day whether it’s in practice or games. He has fun with it as well. You can see the skill come out sometimes when he has the time and space. Give him credit, well-deserved two-time all-star and I’m sure there’s plenty more ahead of him.”

Next. Assessing All-Star Bids Beyond Jack Hughes. dark

The season is just about halfway done and Hughes has certainly exceeded expectations. He’s well on pace to eclipse 100 points by the end of the season, and he will become the first player to do so in Devils history. If not this season, then Hughes can certainly become the second Devils player to win the Hart Trophy. However, becoming a multi-time all-star and leading the Devils to a winning record is definitely a good start.