BUFFALO -- Jack Hughes said the New Jersey Devils provided no hint he would be the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft during his interview with their managerial team and scouts at the NHL Scouting Combine on Wednesday.
"They gave me no hint, but the meeting went well," Hughes said. "There were some laughs in there. It was good to get to know them and I'm sure we'll get to know them a little bit more coming up to the Draft."
The Devils hold the No. 1 choice in the draft at Rogers Arena in Vancouver on June 21-22. The New York Rangers have the No. 2 pick and the Chicago Blackhawks have the No. 3 selection. The 18-year-old center of USA Hockey's National Team Development Program Under-18 team was interviewed by 12 teams at the Combine, including the Devils, Rangers and Blackhawks.
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"I think they all know they have important picks here and are each going to get a very good player but the theme for each of the teams is doing the research and that's what they're doing," Hughes said.
Hughes said the thought of being drafted by the Devils is exciting, particularly since he's never been to New Jersey.
"The Devils have a really good young corps, and the MVP of the league last year in Taylor Hall," he said. "I know they have good fans and they won three Stanley Cups back in the day so they're a winning franchise and they're hungry to win more, so if it did end up being New Jersey I'd be really excited."
Hughes (5-foot-10, 170 pounds), No. 1 in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters, had 112 points (34 goals, 78 assists) in 50 games and set NTDP records for assists (154) and points (228) in 110 games in two seasons with the program.
Video: Highlights of USA Hockey NTDP forward Jack Hughes
Here are Five Questions With … Jack Hughes:
Do you feel ready to play in the NHL next season?
"My speed and skill will translate well, and I believe in my heart I'm the best player in this draft and the best player on the board. I'm a confident kid so I think I had a great year. I know in my head and in my heart that I'm an NHL player and I think that after my experience at the World Championship, it solidified in my mind that I'm ready to go for it next year. I want to be an impact player and come out of the gates fast."
What was the most memorable moment for you as the youngest player for the United States at the 2019 IIHF World Championship in Slovakia?
"Just to be in the locker room with the NHL players, go out to dinner with them, hang out with them. I feel like it was an invaluable experience and kind of like going to Harvard law school, I guess, because that's the best education you could get being around guys like that. You've got guys there like Ryan Suter, a 14-year veteran in the League, who was once in the same position as me. Patrick Kane and James van Riemsdyk took great care of me, taking me out to dinner, talking with me, and teaching me things. Those are guys I kind of created relationships with that will help me for the next couple of years."
Video: Jack Hughes ranks No. 1 on Draft Prospects list
Did you meet your goals and expectations at the NTDP this season?
"You want to be realistic for the year, but I think of myself pretty high, and I had some goals in mind like breaking the record for most career points at the program and did that. I kind of shattered it and hopefully no one will touch it for a couple of years. I wanted to get the single season record but I missed a few games with an injury and finished with 112 points; the record was 117. Along the way, you don't really think of it that much but keep pushing the pace and pushing your play. I had a pretty good sequence of games at the World Under-18 Championship but our main goal was to win gold there, and we didn't. I'd trade all 20 of my points there for a gold medal, but I feel like I had a pretty good tournament."
How did two seasons at the NTDP make you a better player?
"First of all, it makes you a better person. You're growing up with 23 kids your own age on the same team and dealing with the same things. It's kind of a brotherhood you create there, and you can't really say that about other places. The NTDP is a great spot to grow as a human. If you want to dedicate your life to becoming a hockey player, your game will absolutely go through the roof. There's a shooting room there and you're on the ice two hours a day, there are two games over the weekend, you skate 5-to-7 times a week, lift three times a week. If you want to be a hockey player and you're an American boy, the NTDP is the place you need to go."
What are your plans between the end of the Combine and the NHL Draft?
"Just having some fun and relaxing. I don't think I'm going to work out or skate. I was in Europe for almost two months (at the World Under-18 Championship in Sweden and World Championship), just playing hockey, being dialed in and focused. Now that the hockey season is over, I think I'll just watch the Stanley Cup Final, golf and hang out with friends ... be a kid for the last month. Then I'll head to Vancouver. I think my life will change a lot once that weekend goes by."
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