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Hughes 'ready to go and get going' for Devils

Center, who was No. 1 pick in 2019 NHL Draft, will play in Prospects Challenge next week

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Jack Hughes said he believes he's ready to play for the New Jersey Devils this season but won't know for sure until he begins competing on the ice.

"I think there's no way you can really say you're prepared when you don't know," Hughes said at the 11th annual NHLPA Rookie Showcase on Sunday. "I think I've had a really good summer of training, really good on the ice, and mentally, I'm ready to go and get going."

Hughes, who New Jersey selected with the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, will get a chance to test himself against other players hoping to make it to the NHL at the 2019 Prospects Challenge at Harborcenter in Buffalo from Sept. 6-9. The 18-year-old center will join Devils prospects in games against prospects from the Buffalo Sabres, Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins.

He's already had one opportunity to play with and against NHL competition, representing the United States at the 2019 IIHF World Championship in June, when he had three assists and a plus-2 rating in seven games.

"I think that was really different with the countries and the big ice," Hughes said about the larger international rink. "The way you have a game back to back and you get a day off and then a game, that really helped me look at my game a little bit more, things I can work on, get better at. Areas I can score more, produce more points. For me, it was a really good checkup to see where my game's at, evaluate myself."

Video: Jack Hughes stands atop the Top Prospects List

Two areas Hughes identified as focal points for the offseason are his strength and his willingness to shoot the puck more.

For Hughes (5-foot-10, 170 pounds), getting stronger is a must to handle an 82-game NHL season. To help with that, Hughes spent time working with Andy O'Brien, director of sports science for the Pittsburgh Penguins, who counts Penguins center Sidney Crosby and Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon among his clients.

"I think I've had a really good summer, personally," Hughes said. "And I feel really confident and really good in my body and my abilities right now going into (training) camp."

He also understands that being known only as a passer will make him easier to defend. Last season, he had 260 shots on goal in 50 games, second on the USA Hockey National Team Development Program Under-18 team. He also had 78 assists, an NTDP record, and holds the program record for career assists (154).

"I think in the NHL I have to shoot more," Hughes said. "Defenders are so good, long sticks, they can skate. So I have to get the puck off quick. I want to be a dual threat, a guy that can score from 40 feet away but also find the backdoor guy. I've got to find the fine line between the two. Over time I will."

One player confident Hughes will make a smooth NHL adjustment is his older brother, Vancouver Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes.

When asked if his brother was NHL ready, Quinn simply said, "Yes."

As a result, Quinn said he hasn't felt the need to give Jack much advice.

"He's a pretty smart kid and he'll figure it out on his own," Quinn said. "Just work hard, be smart, stuff like that. Simple stuff."

Jack said he has goals for the season in mind but wasn't willing to divulge them.

"I have personal thoughts in my head, personal goals," he said. "I won't be throwing any numbers around, crazy stuff. This is the NHL. I've never done it before. I want to come in and be an impact player right off the bat, no doubt. I think New Jersey is hoping for the same thing from me."

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