As the 2019 NHL Draft approaches, we'll profile some of the top prospects available. We continue the series by taking a look at Jack Hughes - the consensus number one North American skater.
Weight: 171 lbs
NHL Central Scouting Ranking: No. 1 among North American Skaters
The consensus among draft analysts is this: Hughes' impact will be huge in the NHL - and soon. NHL Central Scouting's top-ranked North American prospect is described as a dynamic playmaker with the ability to elevate the play of his teammates.
Hughes averaged more than two points per game in 2018-19, leading the USNTDP Under-18 squad with 34 goals and 78 assists, for a total of 112 points, in 50 games. His 228 career points blew past the previous NTDP record, previously set by Clayton Keller of the Arizona Coyotes.
"Talking about Jack Hughes, he's a massive difference maker and he's an electrifying player," said TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button.
"I have a saying about Jack. He becomes immediately dangerous when his blades hit the ice. He's got that capability to see things quickly and be able to take advantage of it."
Video: DRAFT | 1-on-1 with Craig Button
Perhaps his greatest quality is his speed. With a continued emphasis on speed and skill around the league, Hughes fits right in. His natural ability to make plays at high speeds and process the game faster than others is a massive asset.
"He does everything with quickness, so even if he doesn't score he's probably drawing a penalty in the process because guys just can't catch him with all that dynamic play, that creativity and the hockey smarts," said Senior Writer for The Hockey News Ryan Kennedy.
There's little doubt that Hughes is going to be a star in the NHL. Much like Kaapo Kakko, who we profiled on Tuesday, he's truly a top-notch prospect.
"He's electric. Just electric," said Devils Senior Director of Player Personnel Dan MacKinnon. "You have to go back a long time and, for me, it's been 20 years, to find many comparables for Jack Hughes in terms of how he transports the puck with speed and individual skill but at the same time has an incredible awareness of everyone else on the ice around him. When you combine those two things, the give-and-go game and knowing where everyone is but also the individual skill to sort of slip through small spaces, it's a pretty lethal package."
Video: MSG Networks | Chris Peters on Jack Hughes
Hughes also comes from a hockey background. His mother, Ellen, played soccer, lacrosse, and hockey at the University of New Hampshire. His father, Jim, skated for the USA Selects Team that won the 1988 Spengler Cup and he has coached and worked in player development at several levels. His brother, Quinn, was selected seventh overall by Vancouver last season.
"GAINS THE ZONE AS WELL AS ANYBODY"
"He's just an elite offensive player. We think he could change the game. Maybe he's not as NHL ready, although I do think he'll play in the NHL next year, maybe he's not as ready to dominate at the NHL level as perhaps a Kaapo Kakko is. But I think they're looking more at the long term and I think that Jack Hughes projects out just a little bit better than Kaapo Kakko. One, he's a center. Two, I think he's one of the best play-driving players. He gains the zone as well as anybody, and the speed is a huge factor as to why I think Jack Hughes is ahead of Kaapo Kakko, even after everything that we saw in Finland and at the World Championship. I think it's really tight, but I'm still personally leaning Jack Hughes and I think a lot of teams are as well." - ESPN NHL Draft and Prospects Analyst Chris Peters
"HE IS REALLY, SUPER DYNAMIC"
"He's so dynamic in terms of his edge-work, his vision, and his skating ability. He is really, super dynamic and the most dynamic player, I believe, in this draft. Now, where some people have some concerns is where they're worried about him being slight of frame. And we've seen that before. Nico Hischier, that was the talk about him when he was taken first overall and yet it looks like it's panned out pretty well and has been able, for the most part, to avoid serious injury. But Jack's game on the ice is about the vision, the edge-work, the skating and making those around him better. He does all those things at an elite level." - Sportsnet analyst Sam Cosentino