NEWARK, New Jersey — Jack Hughes said he looks forward to the day when the New Jersey Devils are consistently in contention for a Stanley Cup Playoff spot.
“I’m in my third year now and I want to play big hockey by the end of it,” the 20-year-old center said. “It’s frustrating where we are, but at the same time we’ve faced a lot of things this year and I think we’ve still made positive progress. We’ve beaten some really good hockey teams and hopefully next year we can get back to that, but we still have some games left and we should keep trying to win them and keep pushing.”
The Devils (23-37-5) are last in the eight-team Metropolitan Division and are on course to miss the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. But Hughes said they were headed in the right direction.
“We work on the culture and try to create a winning environment,” he said.
Hughes is front and center for the rebuilding Devils. First pick in 2019 NHL Draft tied with forward Jesper Bratt first in New Jersey with 22 goals and second with 52 points in 45 games.
Hughes, who signed an eight-year, $64 million contract (average annual value of $8 million) on Nov. 30, 2021 that begins next season, scored three points (two goals, one assist) in the first two Devils season games. before missing the next 17 (Oct. 21-Nov. 28) with a dislocated shoulder.
He had 13 points (five goals, eight assists) in his last 10 games and his 100th NHL point when he scored twice in a 7-4 win over the New York Rangers on March 22. He scored 104 points (40 goals, 64 assists) in 162 NHL games and became the fourth Devils player to score 100 points before his 21st birthday (20 years, 312 days). He joins Kirk Muller (20 years, 12 days), Nico Hischier (20 years, 274 days) and Brendan Shanahan (20 years, 306 days).
NHL.com caught up with Hughes to discuss the season, his teammates and his older brother Quinn, a Vancouver Canucks defenseman, and younger brother Luke, a University of Michigan defenseman who was selected in the 4th rank by the Devils in 2021. NHL Draft and was recently named a top 10 finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, given to the player voted the best in men’s hockey in the NCAA.
When you returned to the line-up following your shoulder injury, did you consider doing a race like the one you did?
“I don’t know. It took me a while to get back into it. I had a serious injury, and I missed a lot of time and I had to reaffirm myself, find my timing and just small games where I can take bumps and take hits where, you know, you feel comfortable. So it took me a while, but obviously I’ve been on a pretty good run. I don’t know if I expected it. I was kind of just playing and trying to pick up the pace, push my game and here we are.”
Video: [email protected]: Hughes brings home a circle
How do you think you got better this season?
“I obviously finish games better. Not just make good plays, but finish them and turn them into goals. I probably create more and the more chances you create the more good things are going to happen. So it’s definitely been help my game.”
Which Devils forwards don’t get enough credit for what they do?
“I think we’ve got a bunch of good players. The guy everyone says is ‘Bratter’. He’s a guy who goes under the radar and was one of the best players in the Eastern Conference this year He’s got over a point per game (1.07) and he’s played 59 games, so he’s been hugely impressive He probably hasn’t been talked about enough as a household name, but it’s He’s a guy who drove our team. I think Nico Hischier is our driving force. His ability to drive the game with his 200 foot game, stop guys, play really well offensively and obviously just his character. he’s a real captain for us. He plays through injuries, plays through a lot of things and handles a lot of things. We’re lucky to have him. Everyone knows how good he is, but he is still under the radar, I think.”
What impresses you about the rookie striker Dawson Mercer?
“I love everything he brings to our team. He’s a huge player, a guy who chases the pucks, gets on the pucks and it’s hard to play against him. He’s a dog, he always hunts the puck, and he’s got really good sense skills. He’s got a drive, he’s got a drive, he can skate. As far as our locker room goes, he’s just a great boy, an innocent dude. He’s a rookie , you know, in his freshman year, so he’s thinking about things. We were all the same way our freshman year in the NHL, but all the guys here in New Jersey love him a lot.
Do you think younger brother Luke could be ready to turn pro next season after his first season at Michigan?
“I think he’s ready to turn pro. I’ve watched a bunch of his games. In my mind, he’s good enough to play for sure, 100%. But it’s not just hockey, there’s a bunch of other things that come with it So that decision will be up to him, but I’d love to have him in New Jersey next year I think he’d be a good fit for us, but we’ll see what will happen. tome.”
Video: JP Morosi sits down with Devils prospect Luke Hughes
Can you handicap the Calder Trophy race for NHL Rookie of the Year and the Hart Trophy race for NHL Most Valuable Player?
“They are both such draws. For the Hart, Auston Matthews (of the Toronto Maple Leafs) was amazing. His last 30 games, he may have been the best in the league. So you always have Connor McDavid (Edmonton Oilers), and Leon Draisaitl (oilers), and Jonathan Huberdeau (Florida Panthers) are there. There are so many guys there. The Calder is the same way. I feel like every week there’s a new chef. There are a lot of good recruits. Obviously, Moritz Seider (Detroit Red Wings), Lucas Raymond (Red Wings) and Trevor Zegras (Anaheim Ducks) were the early favorites and they all kept their pace. They have not given up and are still playing very well. Michael Bunting (maple leaves), Anton Lundel (Panthers) and even Mercer grabbed the peloton a bit. I wouldn’t say it’s a two-man race for either trophy. It’s more like a five or six guy race.”
What part of your game did your mother, Ellen, play a big part in developing where it is today?
“She was the one who taught me how to skate. So that was huge because that’s my whole game. You know, my skating. So I attribute a lot of that to her.”
How special is it to have his older brother, Quinn, as a roommate in your Michigan home? And what was the painting Quinn talked about before your showdown with him at the Prudential Center on Feb. 28 that you and he wanted to do for the house?
“Well, he’s a good roommate. He’s fun. We always have a crowded house and always people. It’s great fun having a house with your brother. The painting was a bit of a joke, so I am not I can tell you that this is a custom painting that we are hoping to have someone paint. We have no idea how much it will cost. We have not looked into it. It could cost a few hundred dollars or a few grand.”
When you found out that good friend Zegras was going to see an ode to the movie “Dodgeball” during the adidas NHL Breakaway Challenge during the 2022 NHL All-Star Skills in Las Vegas on Feb. 4, what were your first thoughts and did you do you think he would make it?
“Well, I had no initial idea. I was just laughing. I thought it was hilarious. He obviously has insane talent, and he’s really good at it, so I knew it was something “He was going to kill. I didn’t even see him live because we were in the tunnel but I knew it went well. He’s sick.
Video: Zegras scores a goal blindfolded in Breakaway Challenge