A 13-year-old Luke Hughes walked the campus at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in 2017. With wide eyes and hands full of boxes, he helped transport the belongings of his older brother, Quinn, into a new dormitory with some assistance of other family.
Last Tuesday, Luke made the same walk, with wide eyes and his hands full of boxes - but this time they are his own belongings.
"I put Quinn in the dorms four years ago. I moved him in and now I'm moving in," Luke told the Speak of the Devils podcast. "I thought this day would never come. I'm super excited to go to college."
Luke, who will turn 18 on Sept. 9, is embarking on his collegiate life, both in athletics, academics and living on campus.
"I'm super excited for the lifestyle, just to go to college and meet new people, go to school," said Hughes, the Devils' first-round pick (fourth overall) in this summer's NHL Draft. "I'm super excited for the whole aspect of going to the University of Michigan. It's such a prestigious university and one of the best in the country."
Hughes, a sports management major, will continue his hockey development at the collegiate level. And he's walking into a Wolverines locker room that is filled with talent. In fact, the team had four of its players selected in the top five picks in the 2021 Draft: Owen Power (No. 1, Buffalo), Matty Beniers (No. 2, Seattle), Hughes (No. 4, New Jersey), Kent Johnson (No. 5, Columbus).
"The whole team has the expectation to win a national championship next year," Hughes admitted. "I don't know if there's ever been a team quite like that, four guys in the top five, a couple other first rounders, some good depth, a good goalie and good leadership. I'm super excited for that."
With so many high profiles players on the team, the Wolverines are certainly a heavy favorite to win the NCAA Division I title. But Hughes believes those lofty expectations won't be a mental hindrance to the club.
"I don't think there's any pressure at all," Hughes said. "Obviously, you're looking forward to playing and trying to win a national championship with the team. I think we have the team to do it this year."
Obviously for Hughes, who has also spent part of his summer at Team USA's junior camps in preparation of the upcoming World Junior Championships in Alberta, winning a championship is the ultimate goal. But he's also eager for the journey, which includes playing in a collegiate atmosphere.
"I'm looking forward to trying to win a national championship," he said. "We have a really good team. Everyone knows it. Just playing in the Big 10 in front of fans again, playing in Yost (Arena), I'm really looking forward to that.
"I'm going to be a freshman on the block, try to contribute and try to enjoy my time."
And while Devils fans may dream of a future that features a pair of Hughes brothers on the ice, for now, Luke is dreaming of being just a normal college kid. And unpacking the boxes in his new dorm room.
"The more important thing is going to school," Hughes said, "trying to be a Michigan man, trying to get a degree, meeting really smart, cool people. I'm super excited for that. I'm going to the dorm Tuesday. I'm super excited."