This season New Jersey Devils forward Jack Hughes looks like a completely different player than he did in his rookie season. Coming into his rookie season expectations were set extraordinarily high for Jack Hughes. Everyone expected him to run away with the Calder Trophy during his rookie season, however, he struggled to adjust to the NHL game. However, this season Hughes looks more confident with the puck and is showing why he was the number one overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft. And the Devils are liking what they are seeing from Jack Hughes.
Jack Hughes Takes Major Strides In Sophomore Season
Is that a coincidence? No. Hughes is playing better because having confidence makes you a better player on the ice. Not to mention he has the body now to compete in the NHL. Hughes is stronger on the puck and is out-muscling opposing players. Not only that, his explosive speed and quick hands are there as well. And it is showing on the stat sheet. It took Hughes, seven games last year to record his first point. He did that within his first three games this season. In addition, Jack Hughes has matched his goal total of seven from his rookie season in 29 games with the Devils this season.
Now, this did not happen overnight. Hughes is benefitting from having 10-months off to put on his man weight where he made it his mission to become bigger and stronger. Last season, Hughes was 18 years old, jumping from the US National Development Program to playing in the National Hockey League. He had no experience playing against men and it showed. Having that year to develop and adjust to playing against men helps. Regardless if it is overseas or in college, it helps with the transition to the NHL. Not to mention there were a lot of expectations on him to play well from the start being the number one overall pick.
Hard Work Pays Off For Hughes
Everyone knows what happened last season. He didn’t record a point in his first six games. Finished with 21 points (seven goals, 14 assists) in 61 games. At times he showed signs of his old self, but they were few and far between. Many people wrote him off. But that fueled Hughes in the off-season to come out and prove people wrong. This season in 29 games, Hughes has 16 points (seven goals and nine assists) and is driving the offence for the Devils with Nico Hischier out of the lineup.
“This year was important for me mentally and physically to get ready and be ready to go for a big year,” Jack Hughes said. “I’m excited and I’m confident and I’m ready for a breakout year.”
Most players do not have 10 months to train. Jack took advantage of that. Who is to say Hughes would be seeing the same results if it was a normal season? That is a tough question to answer, but clearly having the time off helped his game.
“I think you can see some of the strength he has this year versus last year, “Devils head coach Lindy Ruff said. “He made a commitment to becoming a better player. I think he understands the way I want him to play. And he is getting rewarded with ice time.
Jack Hughes!!! What a shot 😱 pic.twitter.com/vnFOxkkAS8
— Devils on MSG (@DevilsMSGN) March 18, 2021
Rest Of The Season Outlook
While the Devils started off fast and Jack Hughes was a big reason why the team has come back to Earth. However, Hughes continues to make strides even though the team struggles. Recently though the Devils have gone on a bit of a run winning three of their past four games. Prior to that, the Devils had lost eight of nine games. But one thing that didn’t change was Hughes’s confidence. Something he struggled with last season.
“(My confidence) is obviously high,” Hughes said. “I think it’s always been high but we’re building and I’m building personally. Obviously, Lindy has a lot of faith in me so I got to deliver and we’ve been able to do that so far.”
And while it is great to see Hughes performing well this season, he can’t do it alone. He needs more help. Pavel Zacha is stepping up this season leading the team in points with 18. But with no Hischier in the lineup players like Jesper Bratt, Kyle Palmieri, Nikita Gusev, Andreas Johnsson and others have to be on the scoresheet on a consistent basis.
Even with the strides, Jack Hughes has stated this season, there is, even more, he can do as he continues to develop and be a cornerstone piece for the Devils. And while this is only his second season in the league, consistency should be the name of the game for Hughes going forward. Hughes looks like a star in the league, but as he continues to develop, he will only get better.
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