New Jersey Devils: Jack Hughes Should Play on Opening Night
There wasn’t one non-playoff team that didn’t want to win the NHL Draft Lottery. The prize this year was highly touted, Jack Hughes. He’s the most gifted American skater to enter the NHL since Jack Eichel. The New Jersey Devils are the ones who’ll get the chance to draft him. Does he crack the team’s opening roster on the opening night of the 2019-20 season?
A lot of prospects in the NHL usually won’t come into the NHL right away. However, the first overall pick almost always figures right into the mix. Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, Rasmus Dahlin, they’ve played on their respective rosters since day 1. Jack Hughes might be the next to join that club.
The Devils aren’t going to rush Hughes by any means. They had the first overall pick in 2017, drafting Nico Hischier. That was the right decision by the team as he’s been one of New Jersey’s best players. His second year has seen him play on the Devils top scoring line with Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri (the trio scored 21 goals).
What the New Jersey Devils need is a scorer. This season, they only had one 50-point player (Palmeri). With that being said, Taylor Hall, the team’s superstar, only played in 33 games.
Hughes isn’t a dynamic goal scorer. During his time on the U-18 U.S. National Team, he scored 86 points. Of those points, only 23 of them were goals. Hughes is a facilitator. Expect there to be a hunt to find players that can excel around him, just don’t expect it to be Nico Hischier. He’s going to share the ice with Taylor Hall.
Barring a change of position, Hughes and Hischier will be apart on the ice. Both are natural centers. This might be for the best, as it gives New Jersey two playmakers on separate lines. Excluding Hall, Hughes and Hischier are two best players on the roster. Sadly, they won’t get to showcase themselves together.
Given the Devils lack of point producers last season, Hughes might not able to contribute a lot. It’s for this reason the Devils need Hughes to be on the roster Game 1. He needs to find chemistry and learn the NHL game with veterans on his line. If he can find success with average talent, this could prove to be beneficial to his career.
The New Jersey Devils lack consistent scoring options outside of Taylor Hall. Even the prospects for the team are rather lacking. Micheal McLeod is the top player in the system, but, like Hischier and Hughes, he’s a center. Dobber Prospects thinks very highly of him, giving McLeod an eight out of 10 on NHL certainty.
Aside from McLeod, New Jersey doesn’t have much in terms of prospects that can come up and help the roster, especially on the wings. If anyone is to turn into a wing player, though, it’s McLeod. Hischier and Hughes are best suited as true centers. Even with the lack of quality wings, it’s a foregone conclusion that the Devils will take Hughes.
Owning the top overall pick means you have your choice of any player in the Draft. The New Jersey Devils still have the option of going with Kaapo Kakko, the winger out of the Finnish league. That would be a colossal mistake. Go for the best player in the draft and worry about building the team as you go.
Assuming New Jersey doesn’t add some other offensive weapons, or pair Hughes with Hall, point totals might be low during his rookie season. That’s to be expected. Still, Jack Hughes is ready for the NHL. He’ll be one of the best 25 players in the NHL at some point in the next five years. Might as well give him a head start and play him right away.