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10 TAKEAWAYS: Plenty of Excitement in Camp So Far

Amanda Stein gives her 10 Takeaways of the week, presented by Ticketmaster

by Amanda Stein amandacstein /

NEWARK, NJ - The Prudential Center ice is down and the Devils locker room is buzzing. Training camp opened late last week and there's a buzz around the building in Newark. The New Jersey Devils are back and the hockey season has started after a busy summer. New players are getting acclimated, rookies are being shown the ropes and the Zambonis are putting in their fair share of work as well. In full swing with two pre-season games under their belts, the chance to make an impression on the coaching staff is underway. 

There's plenty to talk about already, so without further ado, here are 10 takeaways from the first couple of days of training camp:

1. It didn't take long for New Jersey Devils Jack Hughes to make a statement.

Video: GOAL VS. BOS | Hughes Scores First

Once the pre-season schedule opened, Hughes wasted little time making the Prudential Center crowd rise out of their seats. The extended chant of "Hughhhhhhes" rained down onto center ice as the 18-year-old scored his first career pre-season goal in his first pre-season game. Hughes' goal came against the Boston Bruins to tie the game on the power play, his lethal wrist shot fired into the net. Hughes connected on a feed from defenseman Sami Vatanen, and by all accounts the rest was history.

Tweet from @amandacstein: Hello my name is Jack Hughes and I just scored my first ever NHL preseason goal.

 2. Scoring in your first pre-season game is a really nice story. But, what makes it unforgettable is when you can pot the overtime winner in that very same appearance and game. So that's exactly what Hughes did. On the ice with Nikita Gusev and P.K. Subban, there was plenty of ice to work with for three speedy players. You could not have drawn it up any better, with Hughes corralling the puck in one corner, skating it through the neutral zone, dropping the puck back to Gusev who takes the shot, and Hughes taps it home as the team rejoices. A remarkable debut for Hughes was complete.

Tweet from @amandacstein: Hello, my name is Jack Hughes and I play for the #NJDevils and this is my first ever NHL preseason game-winning overtime goal.

A rookie in experience, but a pro in hockey-talk, Hughes was all about the team in his post-game press conference.
"It was really good to get out there, and I thought I played good," Hughes said. "It was nice to get two goals, but it's only preseason, so there's still a lot of work to be done."

 3. So, if Jack wasn't going to give himself any accolades or be willing to talk about himself, his teammates were all too eager to jump in. Subban, who was one of the first to celebrate with Hughes, had some fun post-game: 

Video: GOAL VS. BOS | Hughes' OT Winner

"I guess you couldn't draw it up any better ... two goals in this game," Subban said. "I take credit for his OT winner because prior to the overtime, I said to him, 'I heard the rumor that you get one goal and then shut it down, so are you full or do you want more?' He told me, 'That's not me,' and I said, 'I've got to wait and see,' and he scored the winner, so he's already listening and learning."

Defenseman Connor Carrick certainly has a way with words and described what he saw from Hughes like this: "His feet know what his hands are doing, his hands know what his feet are doing and his eyes are able to know what everyone else is doing."

 4. Hughes had two goals in his pre-season debut, a first overall pick for New Jersey scoring in his first pre-season game. Only one other player has ever been selected first overall by New Jersey, and that's Nico Hischier. He also scored in his first ever pre-season game back in 2017. Hard to believe Nico is already entering his third year in the league… time certainly does fly.

Video: POST-GAME REPORT | Devils vs Boston

 5. One more about Hughes: There's plenty of time, but only nine 18-year-olds have scored a regular-season goal for the Devils since the team moved to New Jersey in 1982-83. The last player? Nico Hischier. Hischier turned 19 mid-way through the 2017-18 season (January 4, 1999), Hughes will turn 19 after this NHL regular season comes to a close (May 14, 2001). Something tells me he'll add his name to that list pretty fast. 

 6. When it came to ice-time, defensemen Ty Smith and Damon Severson had logged the biggest minutes of their respective games. Monday night had the Devils in split-squad games. In New Jersey, Smith logged the most minutes of the team with 23:16 of ice time, which included 2:16 of power play time and another 1:55 on the penalty kill. He also assisted on Hughes' regulation goal and Carrick's third period goal that gave New Jersey a 3-2 lead on Boston. 

In Montreal taking on the Canadiens, Devils Damon Severson logged the most minutes, as he has been known to do. Severson played 24:06, that number boosted by the six penalties taken by the Habs. Severson can log big minutes on the power play and he did just that with an incredible 6:35 in power play minutes and 1:00 on the penalty kill. 

 7. Perhaps his numbers didn't show in the first pre-season game, but there is plenty of intrigue around Swedish forward Jesper Boqvist. The 20-year-old is attending his first NHL training camp, after he was drafted in 2017 in the second round. 

Boqvist scored two goals in four minutes during the Devils intra-squad scrimmage over the weekend, while in game play he was held without a point. You can't stress about that, it will come eventually. So far, he's leaving a mark simply by the way he has taken to practice.  

"You know what I like most about Jesper [Boqvist]," head coach John Hynes said. "It was impressive where it was a demanding practice, there's a lot of one-on-ones, there wasn't a lot of time and space and his competitiveness, staying on pucks and his ability to use his skill and skating in those tight confrontational situations was something that looked good."

8. It was hard to focus the first couple days of New Jersey's training camp. Simply because there were so many storylines to keep track of. Everywhere you looked, there was another player you were reminded of their potential impact, but no player was able to draw more attention than that of Taylor Hall. On Saturday the Devils touched the ice as a team for the first time, and the interest in seeing Hall skate onto the ice with teammates had everyone standing by. After nearly nine months, Hall was in his Devils practice jersey, skating, puck handling and deking around teammates as if he never left. From top to bottom, everyone was thrilled to have a healthy Hall back.

Video: ANALYSIS | Saturday's Scrimmage

"It's great to be back, it's been a constant climb," Hall said on media day of training camp. "I think I'm still going to feel even better than I do right now, it's just going to keep getting better."

Tweet from @NJDevils: You love to see it.

There were a couple moments in the Devils scrimmage which included Hall where you could certainly see that the veteran hasn't lost his step. He made those high-caliber plays, with his high-caliber skating and it all looked effortless. Hall didn't play in either opening pre-season games, he has said he'd like to play in a minimum of two games, which will likely come closer to the end of the pre-season schedule.  

"I'm just looking for game situations," Hall said. "Being hit when you don't expect to… putting yourself in spots where you just can't replicate in the offseason."

Tweet from @NJDevils: dirty dangles

No matter when it is, you can expect a raucous crowd when the 2018 Hart Trophy winners name is announced.  

9. At the beginning of the Devils game at Montreal, just several minutes in I tweeted this:  

Tweet from @amandacstein: #NJDevils Mike McLeod looks like a completely different player. His confidence and strength have certainly improved.

Mike McLeod stood out from the get-go, despite that oft mentioned off-season rust. That was right after a rush through center ice by McLeod created the chance for Will Butcher to fire one past Carey Price streaking down the right side of the ice. McLeod did the heavy lifting on Butcher's goal and was a prime example of the strides he's appeared to have taken his summer. 

Video: POST-GAME REPORT | Devils at Montreal

McLeod was rewarded against Montreal for his tough minutes played and commitment to his game. With an odd bounce of the puck off the end-boards and Montreal's Cayden Primeau parked behind his own net McLeod was in the right place at the right time, with the bounce of the puck ending up right on his stick to shoot into the open net, and which completed his two-point night. 

Tweet from @amandacstein: Laser focus from #NJDevils Will Butcher!

"The goal, he deserved it because all the good stuff he did throughout the game. He had a solid game," said assistant coach Alain Nasreddine, who was running the bench in Montreal. "His camp has been really good so far. The goal was lucky, but I thought he got rewarded for all the good things he did in this game." 

Tweet from @amandacstein: Laser focus from #NJDevils Will Butcher!

10. And finally, New Jersey Devils head-coach John Hynes allowed himself to blend into the background at Prudential Center … Hynes ran practices and morning skates for the first two pre-season games, but he watched from above during the games. Hynes had a birds-eye view of his players at Prudential Center against Boston, with assistant coach Rick Kowalsky running the Devils bench, meanwhile in Montreal, assistant coach Alain Nasreddine ran the Devils bench, alongside Mike Greir and Binghamton head coach Mark Dennehy.

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