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The United States National Team Development program has been developing elite NHL prospects for quite some time now. This year the under-18 team really hit a new peak with one of the best rosters in program history. Superstar centre Jack Hughes leads the pack, setting records for points in the program. He scored 23 goals and 83 points in 40 games this year. He also played for Team USA at the World Junior Championships, picking up four points in four games, and helping the squad to a silver medal.
Last season Hughes split time between the Under-17 and Under 18-teams. He had 68 points in 37 games with Under 18s, and 48 points in 24 games with the Under 17s. He won a gold medal at the U17 World Hockey Challenge and a silver medal at the IIHF Under-18 World Championship.
Jack Hughes Scouting Report
Centre — shoots Left
Born May 14th, 2001 — Orlando, Florida
Height 5’10” — Weight 168 lbs [178 cm/76 kg]
Hughes has a complete offensive game and it starts with his skating ability. He is an elite-level skater, with outstanding speed and excellent acceleration. Once he gets a step on a defenceman, he is tough to catch. Hughes can make a move to the outside and cut to the net. He also has top-notch agility and edge work, making him very hard to defend in one-on-one situations. Hughes ability to change speeds as well as his quick cuts makes him difficult for defenders to cover both with and without the puck. Hughes also has good balance and power in his stride at the junior level. However, he will need to add some muscle to maximize this at the NHL level. He could be effective maintaining possession, protecting the puck and playing down low at the NHL level right now, but with a bit more strength, he could become dominant.
Hughes marries his elite skating with the soft and quick hands to handle the puck and make quick moves while skating at that top speed. With the way the NHL continues to emphasize speed and skill, Hughes is the perfect player to take advantage of those conditions. Hughes is an outstanding playmaker. He has great vision and anticipates the movements of teammates. His hockey IQ is extremely high. Hughes can make a tape-to-tape pass through tight areas. His skating ability allows him to speed up the play or slow it down, creating time and space for his linemates.
Jack Hughes also has an accurate shot and quick release. Hughes quick hands allow him to change the angle of his release and fool goaltenders. While his shooting ability does not quite match up to his elite playmaking skill, it is still in the very good range. If there is any criticism, and it is a small one, it is that Hughes could add some weight to his frame before being ready for the pro game. He has already added weight this season, but there is room to grow and be stronger.
Hughes does not get a lot of time on the penalty kill right now, but that is more due to his offensive dominance than his inability to play defensively. He plays bigger than his size and is willing to battle down low and along the boards. He also uses his quick stick to steal pucks from opponents and intercept passes. Once a turnover is created, Hughes transitions to offence very quickly and is extremely dangerous in transition. He is a smart player who reads the play well and can position himself effectively.
Projection and Comparison
Hughes has the potential to be a franchise centre and could become one of the best players in the NHL. The sky is the limit and he will likely make an impact as soon as the fall. Hughes style compares favourably to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, however this is a stylistic comparison only and not one based on skill level or potential.
The following is a compilation of some of the highlight packages and features of Jack Hughes that are available on youtube.
Check back tomorrow for the next prospect on our draft board.
Main Photo: PLYMOUTH, MI – FEBRUARY 16: Jack Hughes #43 of the USA Nationals turns up ice with the puck against the Russian Nationals during the 2018 Under-18 Five Nations Tournament game at USA Hockey Arena on February 16, 2018 in Plymouth, Michigan. USA defeated Russia 5-4. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images)