Jack Hughes will, without a shadow of a doubt, be the first player selected in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.
Yes, Hughes is only 16 years-of-age, however, his continued on-ice dominance of his peers has solidified the youngster as an undeniable blue-chip NHL prospect. As a smooth skater who owns great hands and seemingly endless vision, Hughes’ ability to both pass and shoot the puck has garnered comparisons to Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks.
And, much like Kane did more than a decade ago, Hughes currently finds himself skating for the U.S. National U18 Team. Although he is roughly two years younger than his current opposition, Hughes’ ability to consistently obliterate opposing teams this season despite his youth has cemented the native of Orlando, Florida as a prospect of undeniable brilliance.
Hughes’ Sensational Scouting Report
For Hughes, his game is founded upon his stellar skating abilities.
Capable of blasting past his opposition owing to his eye-watering speed, Hughes integrates crisp edge work which allows him to meander through defenders with ease en route to the goal. Perhaps most impressive of all, however, is Hughes’ ability to move seamlessly throughout the ice. Boasting a smooth stride in combination with an intense internal drive, Hughes plays a mature and precise 200-foot game which does not relent in the defensive zone.
He may not be McDavid, but potential 2019 1st overall pick Jack Hughes is not that far off according to Sam Cosentino. pic.twitter.com/OGVMHynwZf
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) February 7, 2018
Merged with Hughes’ impeccable skating is his ability to operate his set of silky mitts at top speed.
Whether he is weaving in and out of traffic or creating opportunities on the power play, Hughes’ ability to read the ice and react accordingly is second to none. Further, Hughes is immensely creative and has proven himself more than willing to take substantial yet calculated risks in order to create high-percentage scoring chances. In addition, much like Kane, Hughes is incredibly composed and is not pressured into making mistakes — a quality which makes him wildly unpredictable and lethal.
— USA Hockey’s NTDP (@USAHockeyNTDP) October 23, 2017
Lastly, and perhaps least importantly, there is Hughes’ physicality.
Standing 5-foot-10 and weighing 160-pounds, Hughes is far from the biggest player on the ice. However, much like Johnny Gaudreau and Tyler Johnson before him, Hughes has remained unaffected by this perceived deficiency due to his crafty play and elusive instincts. What’s more is that the youngster has displayed no issue protecting the puck from opposing players of intimidating size, as Hughes’ electrifying skating and creativity have combined to deceive the strongest of opponents.
The Next Patrick Kane
Comparing a 16-year-old prospect to a longtime NHL star and future Hall of Fame inductee is not an everyday occurrence.
However, in the case of Hughes, it becomes rather easy to make an exception.
Having followed eerily similar developmental paths, the playing styles of both Hughes and Kane are undeniably similar. As slightly undersized players, both Hughes and Kane rely heavily on their innate offensive instincts in order to flourish. Capable of analyzing specific plays as they develop and reacting accordingly, both individuals have the unique ability to visualize how a play will unfold before it occurs. This allows Hughes and Kane to stand a step in front of their competition, allowing both to devise and execute plays of extreme lethality with startling consistency.
With regards to their individual skill-sets, both Hughes and Kane are once again incredibly similar.
Like Kane, Hughes owns terrific vision. Able to see the ice and his teammates extremely well, Hughes’ world-class playmaking abilities allow him to keep his opposition guessing, as he boasts the capability to dish the puck as well as blast it on goal. In fact, once again much like Kane, Hughes owns a vastly underrated shot which opposing teams take for granted far too often. Quick to close off passing lanes in anticipation of a pass, Hughes can and will make opposing defenders pay dearly if left alone with the puck on his stick.
Finally, there are Hughes’ incredible skating abilities which we touched upon earlier. Like Kane, Hughes owns a smooth and steady stride, allowing him to generate considerable speed in a short period of time. Further, Hughes is strong on his edges and is very much like Kane with regards to his ability to protect the puck from opposing players. However, the most notable — and deadly — skating quality which both Hughes and Kane own is agility and maneuverability. Shifty on their skates in addition to their crafty nature, both Hughes and Kane excel in creating time and space for themselves owing to calculated movements and elite hockey sense.
Hughes’ Immediate Hockey Future
As a direct result of his unquantifiable skill, Hughes boasts a bevy of options with regards to his future in hockey.
As mentioned earlier, Hughes is currently skating for the U.S. National U-18 Team, where he has been remarkably successful against older competition. And, in the 2018-19 season, Hughes will own the opportunity to return to his current team, as he would finally battle competition from his 2001-born age group.
One alternate route for Hughes to follow would be a transition to the NCAA. Unfortunately, Hughes would not be able to suit up for his chosen team for at least another two years, making a jump to the NCAA rather pointless given he will likely be in the NHL to open the 2019-20 season.
So, alternatively, Hughes could opt to play in either the United States Hockey League or the Ontario Junior Hockey League next season. If Hughes were to play in either of these two leagues, it would allow the youngster to retain his NCAA eligibility if he was determined to commit to a school in the coming years.
However, arguably the greatest road for Hughes and personal his development will run through Mississauga, Ontario. Selected by the Mississauga Steelheads in the 2017 OHL Priority Selection, Hughes could opt to return to the city where he played a great deal of his minor midget hockey with the GTHL’s Toronto Marlboros. Although doing so would make him ineligible for the NCAA, a turn to the Ontario Hockey League would likely provide Hughes with the stiffest competition possible ahead of his selection in the 2019 NHL Draft.
Brett Slawson is a four-year veteran of The Hockey Writers who covers the Toronto Maple Leafs, NHL prospects, and the OHL’s Mississauga Steelheads.
Contact Brett on Twitter @brettslawson92, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.