Even though the New Jersey Devils are about to compete in a playoff game for the first time since 2018, many people are still talking about the potential of left-handed defenseman Luke Hughes. In the final game of the regular season, Hughes scored the game-winning goal in overtime to help the Devils break their franchise record for most wins in a single season with 52. What made the moment even better was that Luke’s older brother, Jack, was the one who had the primary assist on his goal.
Hughes had a successful two-year tenure at the University of Michigan, appearing in the Frozen Four both years. This year, he finished with 42 points (nine goals, 33 assists) which ranked second among all NCAA defensemen. In addition to his success at the collegiate level, Hughes also had a huge showing internationally. He was captain of Team USA during the 2023 World Juniors Championship and led them to a Bronze Medal. After the event, he led all defensemen in that tournament in goals (four).
Similar to his brother, Luke has quickly become a fan favorite with the Devils fanbase. Not only does the organization have high praise for his playing ability, but his former Michigan Wolverine teammate, Matty Beniers, also had a lot of positive things to share. Pucks and Pitchforks spoke to Beniers after the Kraken played the Arizona Coyotes at Mullett Arena:
"“Luke’s an extremely dynamic player,” Beniers said. “He’s one of the best skaters that I’ve ever played with. He has skill on the offensive side of the puck. But, he’s also very responsible defensively. So, you kind of get the whole package with him.”"
Listen to the full discussion with Beniers on a recent episode of Locked On Devils.
Beniers is currently a center for the Seattle Kraken and is the front-runner to win the Calder Memorial Trophy. He has been in the NHL for a little over a year now. So, while he’s not the most experienced player on the rink, he was able to share some simple advice for Luke.
"“I don’t think he needs much advice,” Beniers said. “Just have fun with it and play your game.”"
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Hughes made a good first impression and certainly has a bright future. While his playing status during the playoffs is still to be determined, it’s nice that he’s accustomed to the organization to gain more experience. Come next season, Hughes might be like his buddy Beniers and try to compete for the Calder Memorial Trophy.