Watch Out NHL: Jack Hughes is Back to His MVP Level

The New Jersey Devils have desperately needed the best of Jack Hughes for weeks, but he's been just off. Now that he's more than 10 games from his injury, he looked like a different player on Tuesday night.

New Jersey Devils center Jack Hughes (86)
New Jersey Devils center Jack Hughes (86) / Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

The New Jersey Devils are a little too far out of a playoff spot for any fan's liking right now. They see themselves five points behind the Philadelphia Flyers for third in the Metropolitan Division and three points behind the Tampa Bay Lightning for that second Wild Card spot. It's been a rough Devils season that includes more injuries than we can count and terrible goaltending play. There are a lot more issues with this team, but those two stand out as the reason they are here.

The most important injury was likely the two injuries to Jack Hughes. Hughes missed five games in November, and he missed 11 games in January after suffering two different upper-body injuries. Since returning from both injuries, he hasn't looked the same.

Prior to his first injury, Hughes had six multi-point games after just 9 1/3 games played. In four of those games, he had at least three points. He was impacting the game throughout the contest. His most recent return, Hughes had one multi-point game in 10 attempts coming into Tuesday night's game with the Sharks. He scored a goal and added an assist against the Seattle Kraken. He's had three games with zero points during that stretch.

Hughes looks frantic, attempting to skate through defenses like he's done before. The only difference is he has a lot of trouble holding onto the puck. On top of that, his passes are not as crisp as we're used to. He's misread where players are and where they are going. This was never an issue for Hughes.

Last night, none of this was an issue. Hughes led the team in 5v5 time on ice (even beating out all the defensemen) with 19:10. If you add power play time, it jumps to north of 23 minutes. He had a goal, a first assist, and a secondary assist. They all came at even strength. He blocked a shot, had two takeaways, and he took 11 shots. Those were only the ones that hit the net. He took a total of 18 chances at the net.

Hughes clearly had confidence in his play last night, and it's been a while since we've seen that. There was some frustration in the first period, with Hughes seemingly losing himself a little at the end of the period when he tried to beat two defensemen by himself. It just motivated him because he was stellar in the second period.

This is the Hughes we should expect for the rest of the season. Yes, this was against the San Jose Sharks, one of the worst teams in the NHL, but we've already chronicled once why the 10-game mark after an injury is important for Hughes. Tuesday night was game 11 after he returned from his most recent upper-body injury. It shows that Jack Hughes is back to being that MVP-worthy player once again, and the Devils need that if they are going to make the playoffs.