With the 1st Pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, the New Jersey Devils Have Selected Jack Hughes From the US NTDP Program.
About Jack Hughes
For the second consecutive season, the first-overall pick was ranked No. 1 from wire to wire. Jack Hughes is as good a prospect as it gets in professional sports and he has the potential to immediately factor into the New Jersey Devils’ plans as an impact player. Hughes is also the first American to go first overall since Auston Matthews was taken by the Toronto Maple Leafs.
THW Prospect Profile Excerpt
“Hughes has been a dominant player in the USHL since joining the Under-17 and Under-18 teams a season ago. With the U-17 team, he’d score three goals and 15 points in just nine games. He’d do even better with the U-18 team when he scored 18 goals and 39 points in just 18 games.
This season with the U.S. National Development Team, Hughes has done nothing to hurt his draft stock and has only reinforced the fact that he should be the first player taken off the board in June. While the stats alone are impressive at 12 goals and 43 points in 22 games, anybody who’s watched Hughes play knows that he’s so much more than numbers on a stat sheet.
Related: Free 2019 NHL Draft Guide
It isn’t hyperbole to say that Hughes makes multiple highlight reel-worthy plays every single game he plays. He’s an excellent skater with the smarts and maturity to make an impact in the NHL from day one. While size may be a concern for some, it really shouldn’t be worrisome in today’s NHL with some of the best players in the league coming in at a similar stature.
Being fast is one thing. Being able to play at such a high speed is another thing entirely. Hughes has the skating ability, shot, vision, play-making prowess and smarts to excel at such high speeds akin to NHL superstars like Connor McDavid and Patrick Kane.”
How This Affects the Devils’ Plans
For the Devils, Hughes ability to step in and immediately step in and play a top-six role could provide a huge boost for the team. Of note, the Devils already have Travis Zajac, Nico Hischier and Pavel Zacha as the top-three centers on the team’s depth chart. While Hughes could slot in at his natural center position from the get-go, the Devils could also use him on the wing in a more prominent role early.
In the end, it’ll depend on how the Devils feel about Hughes through training camp and the preseason. If he shows he’s a more capable center than winger, the team could use him down on the third line and let him flourish against bottom-six match-ups in sheltered minutes early on. If they feel he can handle the brunt of the load in the top-six, he can play on the left of either Zajac or Hischier.
There’s also the possibility that Hughes isn’t ready to go right away next season, though it would be surprising if the team didn’t use him in the NHL on opening night.
For the long-term, Hughes serves as the potential cornerstone of a franchise and the Devils chose the right year to win the Draft Lottery (after also winning it in 2017).