New Jersey Devils: Can Jack Hughes Finally Hit his Ceiling in 2024-25?

In five NHL seasons, Jack Hughes has shown tremendous growth and development, leading to his superstar status. In 2023-24, injuries prevented him from reaching his full potential. 2024-25 could be the season he elevates his game all the way to the top.
Jack Hughes
Jack Hughes / Adam Hunger/GettyImages

Jack Hughes is already a superstar, and he hasn’t even reached his prime years yet. 2024-25 will be Hughes’ age 23 season, his sixth year in the NHL with the New Jersey Devils. Following a breakout year in 2022-23, an injured shoulder prevented him from reaching his ceiling in 2023–24. If Hughes can stay healthy, 2024-25 could be the year he unlocks a new gear and breaks 100 points in a regular season.

In his first two NHL seasons, Hughes didn’t sparkle, but he exuded the potential to become the Jack Hughes we now know. In 2019-20, he tallied 21 points in 61 games. In 2020-21, he reached 31 points in 56 games. In 2021-22, he had 56 points in 49 games. Then Hughes had a 99-point season in 78 games in 2022-23. His point totals have increased each year except for this past season.

Over the years, Hughes has exhibited steady development. He has gained more strength, created more chances, showed off his skating speed, and improved his two-way play. He shows his value all over the ice. His crafty shooting and passing are crucial assets. When he’s in superstar mode, Hughes is vital to the Devils’ power play. He tallied 31 points on the power play in each of the last two seasons.

Unfortunately, Hughes has had bad luck in playing a full slate of 82 games. In five seasons, he's only played more than 70 games once. His first NHL season in 2019-20 was cut short by the pandemic. He played 61 of 69 games. He played in all 56 games in 2020-21, the second COVID-shortened season. His injuries held him to 49 games in 2021-22 and 62 games in 2023-24. His closest year to a full season was 78 games in 2022-23. Despite the shortened seasons and injury issues, Hughes has continued to grow.

Hughes was poised to have a big year in 2023-24, but a nagging shoulder injury plagued his season. His shoulder has been an issue before. Hughes missed 20 games but played through a good chunk of the season clearly still injured in an effort to help keep the Devils in the playoff hunt. His average ice time increased by a full minute from 2022-23 to 2023-24, showing the Devils’ reliance on Hughes.

Upon returning from missed time, Hughes was unable to take face-offs because of his shoulder and played wing instead of center as a result. Although he played with heart, he just didn’t look right. His shooting percentage for the season went down from 12.8% the previous year to 9.9%.  Despite being injured, Hughes had 74 points in 62 games. He was on pace for 98 points in 82 games.

Once the Devils’ playoff hopes were dashed, Hughes was shut down and had season-ending surgery. He’s expected to make a full recovery over the summer and be ready for the start of the 2024-25 season. A healthy Hughes back at center will be a huge plus for the Devils.

While Hughes was scouted as an elite playmaker, his shot has developed to an elite tier, as well. In a healthy season, Hughes can score 40+ goals. He did it in 2022-23, scoring 43 goals in 78 games. He scored 27 goals in 62 games in 2023-24, meaning he was on pace for 35 goals in a full season. Imagine what he could have done if healthy.

He’s already the Devils’ single-season points leader in franchise history. Will Jack Hughes become the first Devil to reach 100 points in a season? Will his dynamic playmaking help the Devils reach the next level as a team? As Hughes becomes a more seasoned player, there's no telling what his ceiling can be in a full, healthy season. Now that he’s had his shoulder fixed, Hughes is ready to elevate his game and show how high his ceiling can be.