Devils Top Pick Hughes Eager To Get Career Started

Jack Haley
June 25, 2019 - 4:17 pm
Jack Hughes

Kevin R. Wexler/ USA Today

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After being selected No. 1 overall during Friday's NHL draft in Vancouver,British Columbia, Jack Hughes finally made his first appearance in front of the New Jersey Devils’ media on June 25.

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Hughes said that the feeling of being drafted first overall is nearly indescribable. 

“When it happens, the emotions that run through your body, you can’t really put into words. It’s so different than what you dream of,” the 18-year-old said. 

Hughes was the top pick after an impressive junior career, smashing national team development program records and impressing in international competition. He averaged more than two points a game, recording 112 points (34 goals, 78 assists) over 50 games with the U18 United States National Team Development Program. 

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Hughes has the most assists and points in the history of the program, topping notable players such as Austin Matthews, Patrick Kane and Phil Kessel.

Kevin Weekes, the onetime Devil who is now with NHL Network, called the moment of introducing Hughes to the organization, “a monumental day, a historic day in the history of the New Jersey Devils.”

The news conference was given an extra lift by the recent acquisition of defenseman P.K. Subban from the Nashville Predators. The combination of the two exciting talents joining the roster less than 24 hours apart, brought an air of expectation to the room.

“I think the Devils are back in business,” fourth-year general manager Ray Shero said.

The team revealed in the news conference Hughes’ jersey and that he would wear No. 86. Hughes traditionally had worn No. 6 in his time in the junior leagues, but he thought asking Devils captain Andy Greene, who also wears No. 6, to change his number was pushing it. 

Though he will join five other players wearing No. 86 and a host of comparisons will be drawn between him and other young studs, Hughes is focused on playing his game.

“I want to be unique and creative,” Hughes said. “I want to be an exciting and fun player to watch for a lot of years to come.”

Though Hughes may be a centerpiece for the team in the years to come it still often takes more than one star to bring home the Stanley Cup. That isn’t lost on Hughes, who said that every team needs a deep roster to win.

“Hockey is such a humbling sport,” Hughes said. “This is a sport that’s not a ‘me’ sport; it’s a ‘we’ sport. For me and for every other hockey player it’s always the team over self.”

Hughes also mentioned that the rest of the Devils roster will help take the pressure off of his first year. With players such as Subban, Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier on the roster, Hughes says he’s still “living the dream” and that there is no pressure to this upcoming season. 

While Hughes has enjoyed and appreciated the circus that has been following him since he was drafted, he said he was admittedly “kind of ready to get it over with and kind of ready to become a part of the New Jersey Devils.”

When the tour does end, it’ll be time to get to work. Hughes said one of the biggest challenges he will have coming into the season is rooted in his youth.

“Playing against men in an 82-game schedule will be difficult,” he said. “I know it’s a long season and I know it’s a lot of travel, but I’m really excited for it. This is what I’ve dreamed of for so many years.”

Hughes is looking to make an impact early, hoping to dive head-first into his rookie campaign. Part of that is getting to know his teammates. He already knows at least one, as he has trained in the past with Hall. 

“I know who he is as a player, but getting to know him as a person, getting more comfortable with him come September, it will be really good to get to know him this summer.” Hughes said. 

Hughes will get to meet some of his teammates soon when he reports to development camp on July 8.