Devils select Jack Hughes with No. 1 draft pick in 2019

Unsurprisingly, the New Jersey Devils spent the No. 1 selection at the 2019 NHL Draft on NHL Central Scouting’s top-ranked skater, American centre and U.S. developmental program standout Jack Hughes.

While Kaapo Kakko submitted a legitimate challenge to the illustrious selection with a brilliant season in Finland and at the World Championship, Hughes has been the presumptive No. 1 draft selection for some time, and the ideal prospect for the Devils to re-build their program around.

Hughes led USA Hockey's Under-18 development program with 34 goals and 112 points in 50 games in his draft season. Averaging more than two points per game in his two seasons, Hughes will graduate from the USA Hockey program with records for assists and points.

Jack Hughes is the No. 1 overall selection. (Getty)
Jack Hughes is the No. 1 overall selection. (Getty)

Like Kakko, Hughes represented the United States at both the U-20 and World Championships, but didn’t quite achieve the same level of success.

Hughes had four assists in as many games at the world juniors, and chipped in with three assists in seven appearances in the men’s tournament. Meanwhile, Kakko helped Finland win gold in both tournaments. He collected five points in seven games at the junior level and scored six goals in 10 games at the World Championships.

Here’s what a selection of the top scouts have recently said about Hughes:

  • Dan Marr, NHL Central Scouting: In Hughes, you get the highly skilled, offensively talented centre who plays the game with speed, quickness, elite hockey sense and an ability to execute at top speed while making those around him better.

  • Corey Pronman, The Athletic: What makes Hughes a top prospect isn’t his skill level, but his pace. He’s a unique skater who is so tough when he gets going with speed. Defenses can see it coming, and they still can’t stop it. His speed is dangerous but particularly his edge work is special. He spins off pressure so well and can create space for himself like few others with his cutbacks. He’s got a high skill level and fantastic vision with the puck, and at a standstill, he can make highly skilled plays. But what makes Hughes stand out from your typical playmaker is how he makes those plays at a million miles an hour.

  • Chris Peters, ESPN: Hughes has such great burst and an effortless glide in his skating, and he uses his edges deceptively and to create separation. He sees the ice and processes play development at an elite level. He is a shot-pass threat, though he's more likely to choose the pass option, as his shot still needs improvement. Hughes is an expert in making plays in small areas, which is why his size is less of a bother.

Having selected Nico Hischier first overall two years ago, the Devils’ centre-ice depth chart now features two No. 1 draft selections under the age of 20.

While they face some uncertainty with Taylor Hall entering his final season before potentially reaching unrestricted free agency, Hughes and Hischier provide the Devils with two legitimate talents to build a top six around.

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