What’s next for Jack Hughes?
The 2022-23 season is upon us and New Jersey Devils fans are ready to let go of the puck. The excitement around New Jersey has been similar in recent seasons, with the young offensive talent led by 2019 number one pick Jack Hughes.
Although he was injured for a few spells last season, Hughes seemed to be catching up with the NHL in his third season, scoring 56 points in just 49 games. Hughes got off to a great start in Game 1 of last season, every Devils fan now has ‘stick throwing’ etched in their minds at this point. Unfortunately, after getting injured the next game, Hughes didn’t really see his full potential until late December.
During a 35-game streak starting just before the end of 2021, Hughes had a remarkable 48 points. The flurry of goals was definitely influenced by two factors, adopting a shoot-first mentality and playing with dangerous playmaker Jesper Bratt.
When it comes to Hughes’ shoot-first mentality, he’s seen how much of an impact shooting the puck has on his game. With his jaw-dropping talent for handling the puck, scoring chances are going to come naturally throughout a match.
Athletic’s Corey Masisak reported last January that “Hughes leads the Devils forward in expected goals for (3.81) and scoring chances for (49) when on the ice at five-for-five.” He’s also second on the team in scoring odds (55.0), behind only Jesper Bratt.
Essentially, the odds are there for Hughes. He creates them by pulling more on the puck. It gives the Devils a chance to capitalize on more of those opportunities.
So what’s a fair wait for Hughes this season? While I think 100 points is possible, I think it’s more realistic to expect something between 75 and 95, especially since he has yet to play a full 82-game season. .
For a realistic comparison and long shot, it may help to look at the top two picks of the 2015 NHL Draft. While Jack Eichel’s production is a good base to watch for Hughes, Connor McDavid is a stretch. Sorry Devils fans, no one is McDavid.
Although he is not McDavid, there are some similarities between McDavid’s rookie year and Hughes’ third season. An injury-shortened season held McDavid to 45 games and 48 points. Both had 14 power-play points and were also the young stars of their teams, keeping them competitive but not enough to qualify for the playoffs.
If Hughes is able to make a McDavid-like leap, well let’s just say the only season McDavid didn’t top 100 points was the shortened 2019-20 season, where he still scored 97. And yes, that includes abbreviated 2020-21. season that only played 56 games, where he scored 105 points. There’s a reason he’s in a class of his own.
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Eichel, meanwhile, while playing for a terrible Buffalo team, had a season similar to Hughes in his third year, 64 points in 67 games, just under a point per game. In fact, it was a feat Eichel wouldn’t achieve until fourth grade, with 82 points in 77 games. That’s 15 points in 10 overtime games.
The other question might be what Hughes will do with Bratt on his wing for a second season. The duo proved they really enjoy playing together last season. New Jersey’s front line is expected to be buoyant this season, expecting to bring speed and skill, as well as grit and experience thanks to the addition of Ondrej Palat in free agency.
It’s also important to note that Hughes didn’t seem to miss a beat in training camp with Alexander Holtz and Palat. Holtz jumped at the chance to play with Hughes during the preseason, while Palat reunited the young line with his championship experience at Tampa Bay. If New Jersey decides to separate Hughes and Bratt to distribute the wealth, Hughes’ production shouldn’t drop too much.
With all of these factors, Hughes’ health, based on what he did last year and the next leap they expect him to make after coming into camp again looking like a more stronger and faster, 90 points seems like a fair expectation and a remarkable season for the New Jersey star. Ultimately, the expectation in New Jersey, both in the Devils organization and in the fan base, is for Hughes to produce like a star.