Jack Hughes on Broadway: is it a New York Rangers silly fantasy or a reality that’s just waiting to show face at the 2019 NHL Entry Draft?
He’s been talked about since the ripe age of 15. The highly-touted prospect has produced at a rate that few others have replicated. He has already been labeled as a young prodigy, the next American superstar. He is a coveted prospect who has long been considered the slam-dunk consensus first overall pick in 2019. He is frequently mentioned in the same sentences as prior studs to graduate from the U.S. National Development Program such as Jack Eichel, Auston Matthews and Patrick Kane. Pretty good company for a guy that hasn’t even played an NHL game.
While it was once a foregone conclusion that this player would be the first pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, those days are behind us.
Despite their rebuilding efforts, the New York Rangers made the decision not to try and “Lose for Hughes” during the 2018-2019 campaign. They definitely lost, yet it didn’t seem like they had lost enough to have a chance at the prospect that the entire NHL has been yearning for. However, with a little bit of luck thanks to the late Steven McDonald, “Lose for Hughes” could become a reality on a Broadway.
Don’t get your hopes up; it is unlikely. Nevertheless, it’s certainly possible. He’s only 17-years-old, expectations are sky-high, but he could be the man to single-handedly change the fortunes of this struggling franchise. His name is Jack Hughes and he could be a New York Ranger come June 21.
The Broadway Blueshirts hit the jackpot on April 9 by landing the second overall pick in this summer’s draft. It sounds counterintuitive, but the number two slot was truly the ideal landing spot for Jeff Gorton and Co.
New York’s job is easy. They’ll simply choose whoever the New Jersey Devils don’t select out of Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko (who I discussed last week). The pressure is on Ray Shero. It will be very difficult for him to pass up on Hughes, but there is definitely an argument to made for Kakko.
The Finnish sniper is bigger, stronger and more NHL-ready than Hughes. In fact, Kakko has approximately four inches and 20 pounds on Hughes. Additionally, Kakko could be a better fit in New Jersey than Hughes. The Devils already have a playmaking pivot in Nico Hischier, and they are in desperate need of more goal-scorers.
When you look at New Jersey as a team that is looking to get back to the playoffs and is in need of goals, Kakko makes more sense. Lastly, we’ve seen this before from Ray Shero. When the Devils had the first overall pick two years ago, Shero unexpectedly decided to go with Nico Hischier instead of Nolan Patrick.
Could Shero shock the world again and select Kakko rather than Hughes?
I’m not saying that’s what’ll come to fruition. I’m only preparing you for the possibility. So with that said, let’s take a closer look at Jack Hughes.
Jack Hughes is a 17-year-old American sensation. Hughes spent this past season playing with the U.S. National Development Program team. In 24 USHL contests this year, Hughes notched 48 points. He also captained the U.S. under-18 national team, for which he scored 102 points in 46 games.
To put these gaudy numbers into perspective, Hughes’s USHL points-per-game is identical to that of Auston Matthews and greater than that of Jack Eichel. When looking at these guys’ performances for the U.S. U18 National team, Hughes’ points-per-game is significantly higher than that of Matthews, Eichel and Patrick Kane.
Looking purely at the stats, Jack Hughes enters this year’s draft as a better prospect than Matthews, Eichel and Kane all were when they entered the NHL. And it’s not only the numbers that showcase Hughes’ greatness. When you watch him play, it is easy to be mesmerized by his elite skill. Don’t believe me? You can see for yourself.
Introducing Jack Hughes — hockey’s newest game-breaker.
A Tremendous Playmaker
Hughes’ most impressive attribute is his vision. He makes passes that others can’t make, and he finds passing lanes that nobody else can find. If you’re on the ice with the Orlando native, be ready because he’ll find you when you least expect it.
Here’s a prime example of Hughes’ uncanny ability to find the open man.
Hughes also possesses high-end speed and quickness. That, coupled with his hands and skill, make him a nightmare for the opposition. Watch how Hughes flies through the neutral zone, weaves his way through the defense and then makes a beautiful pass to find his teammate through a sea of three defensemen.
A Wizard With the Puck
Not only does Hughes possess top-notch vision, but he also is simply a tremendous passer. He finds his teammates, yet he is also able to thread the needle and put the puck right in their respective wheelhouses.
Look at how Hughes enters the zone, draws a defender, delays for a second, and then finds a way to send the puck around the defenseman and right onto the tape of his teammate.
This next play may not seem so difficult; however, Hughes doesn’t gain control of the puck until he’s deep in the offensive zone. This causes him to take a somewhat awkward angle as he heads toward the net. He’s able to recover by dishing the puck through the defenseman’s leg, allowing him to find his teammate for an easy tap-in.
Hughes also does a great job executing the saucer-pass, as can be seen here. He lifts the puck over the defenseman’s stick and it lands right in his teammate’s wheelhouse.
Hughes is also very patient with the puck. This helps him these passing lanes. Stylistically, Hughes reminds me a lot of Mitch Marner and Matt Barzal. This is another play where you can see why.
He can score, too
Hughes doesn’t use his shot enough. He’s primarily a set-up man, but he can also put the puck in the back of the net.
Not many guys can score from this angle.
What Hughes lack in size, he makes up for his speed. Watch how he beats his defender to the puck, and then displays his patience again by waiting out the goaltender. He gets the goalie to bite and then puts the puck right back where he came from.
Despite his lack of size, Hughes also isn’t afraid to go to the front of the net. In this clip, he picks up the rebound and uses his fast hands to beat the goaltender.
Regardless of who the Rangers end up with, the future is bright on Broadway. I believe that Hughes is a slightly better player than Kaapo Kakko; however, I also believe that Kakko would be a better fit for the Blueshirts than Hughes.
As of now, I expect Kakko to be the man who joins the Boys in Blue this summer. But if Ray Shero were to shock the world and take Kaapo Kakko, Jack Hughes would be one heck of a consolation prize.