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DRAFT: In the End, the Devils Just Couldn't Pass on Hughes

After much debate and scouting, the New Jersey Devils just could not let Jack Hughes slip past the first-overall pick

by Chris Wescott /

VANCOUVER, BC - At the top of the 2019 NHL Draft, there were two very good players the New Jersey Devils could have taken. But in the end, it was always meant to be Jack Hughes. The club couldn't bear the thought of passing on his potential.

Video: DRAFT | Post Day 1 Analysis

"It was really difficult to think about passing on Jack Hughes," said Devils Executive Vice President and General Manager/Alternate Governor Ray Shero. "We did our homework. The Rangers are getting a really good player. It's going to be great for our rivalry and great for the Devils. That's the most important thing."

The Devils selected Hughes first overall and Kaapo Kakko from Finland went second to their neighbors in New York.

"I think it's fantastic," said Shero. "I think the fans are excited, we're excited. It's another great young player and certainly a hard decision. Kaapo Kakko is going to be a heck of a player for the Rangers. But for us, Jack Hughes, we're really looking forward to it and real happy for him and for our franchise. I think it's fantastic. It's a big day."

Hughes, 18, is a 5-foot-10, 171-pound center from the United States National Team Development Program. He's been NHL Central Scouting's top-ranked North American Skater for quite some time.

"He was projected to be the number one overall pick for a couple of years," said Shero. "There's a reason for that… What excites me about Jack is his hockey IQ, his skating, his agility, and his total instincts as a hockey player. He has incredibly quick hands and he sees the ice. We won the lottery and I was over at the U-18s and a couple of plays he made, I know it's on TSN or something like that but, honestly, [I was like] I better not laugh here because this is really good to watch."

"I think his offensive skills and the dynamic game that he plays," Devils Director of Amateur Scouting said of what set Hughes apart in the end. "He's a dominating player on the ice. He makes players around him better."

"His speed is incredible," Castron added. "He glides on the ice, but at the same point, he's gliding by people, which is an unbelievable skill to have. He just makes it look easy."

Coming off a stellar 112-point season for USA's Under-18 team, Hughes was always the likely first-overall pick.

The Devils brass was extremely happy with their selection on Friday night, taking a player who immediately becomes a face of the franchise and an ambassador for New Jersey and the hockey club.

"I think Jack's personality is fantastic," said Shero. "It's great for the Devils. I think he's not afraid to say 'I want to go number one,' and he wants to win, he's a kid who makes the teammates around him better. I know when he was doing his media he had to take a break because he wanted to see his teammates getting drafted. I think it's fantastic.

"He's a great kid. He wants to win and I think he's going to fit in with us. We have a ways to go, but this certainly is a big help for us… to have the season we had was disappointing. But we get lucky and win the lottery and have the chance to take a Jack Hughes. That makes up for it."

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