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Five Questions With...

Five Questions with Patrik Elias

Two-time Cup winner with Devils discusses top draft pick Hughes, developing young talent

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer's Q&A feature called "Five Questions With …" runs every Tuesday. We talk to key figures in the game and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and the latest news.

The latest edition features former New Jersey Devils forward Patrik Elias, a two-time Stanley Cup winner and the team's all-time leader in numerous offensive categories.

NEWARK, N.J. -- Patrik Elias says Jack Hughes, the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, still has much to learn but is on the right path to becoming one of the best young players in the game for the New Jersey Devils.

"I think his physicality is sometimes an issue. But he's smart and skates well, so he's going to learn how to maybe not get into those tough situations," said Elias, a two-time Stanley Cup winner with the Devils who holds many of New Jersey's offensive records. "He's such a good skater that sometimes he's all over the place and never stops. I was the same way. I liked to move a lot when I played, but you've got to move to the right spots, and I think that's going to come with time."

Elias, the Devils' all-time leader in goals (408), assists (617), points (1,025), power-play goals (113), power-play points (333) and game-winning goals (80) in 1,240 regular-season games, announced his retirement after 20 seasons with New Jersey on March 31, 2017. He's enjoying an occasional opportunity to work as a special assistant with his former team.

"They allow me in the locker room and coaches room, learning what it takes," Elias said. "I've been part of all the meetings this year, so it's like I'm part of the staff. I know I played for the Devils, had a pretty good career, but that doesn't mean they had to open the door for me and do this. I'm grateful."

Elias had a positive influence on many Devils players before leaving for the Czech Republic on Nov. 1 to begin work as an assistant for the national team. He'll be an assistant for the Czech Republic National Junior Team a second straight year at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship, then is expected to return on Jan. 27 for the second of four special assistant stints in New Jersey.

Elias spoke with about Hughes, developing young talent and the outlook for the Devils this season.

Here are Five Questions with … Patrik Elias.

What's your advice for Jack Hughes?

"He's still an 18-year-old player with tremendous skills and upside to his game and his career. He's been so good for so long, so dominant in his age group, but it's different now. He needs to stay more in the middle of the ice and not always move away and waste energy. Defensively, the physical element isn't there yet, so maybe he needs to be a little more patient in his positional play. He'll learn how to be smarter. Offensively, he's got so much talent, sees the ice, sees the plays develop quicker than most and can make unbelievable passes -- but sometimes it's OK to just keep it simple."

Video: NJD@CGY: Hughes makes pretty move for terrific goal

What are your thoughts on developing young NHL players?

"Some [teams] throw them right into it and let them get through it and help them out; some work the young players slowly into it, so who knows what's the right way. You've just got to try and figure it out and see how the player responds, how he reacts to playing a lot of minutes and how he reacts to playing less minutes but in different situations. From what I've seen and from the way they're talking and how they're using [Hughes], I feel they're taking the right approach to making him a better NHL player."

What do you think of the Devils this season?

"If you had a choice, you probably would add one or two pieces here and there, correct? I think we all know it and kind of see it. [Devils general manager] Ray Shero is a smart hockey man. This is a business and sometimes you make moves over the course of the summer and everybody gets excited, feeling these guys can help the team, but it's more than that. Everyone needs to be on the same page. Once they do [that], I believe this team can perform and can get to where they want to go, which is the playoffs."

How long does it take to build the chemistry necessary to become a playoff team?

"I've been there as a player. You look at it on paper, see the additions made and you're like, 'Wow, this is going to be awesome.' You feel the team is going to be so much better. I think they believe it, and we believe it as an organization, but it takes time. I've been part of a winning team and a losing team, and the one common thing is the chemistry. When you have that as a line, as a team when you feel things are going the right way, it's just happening out there. But it's [very] hard to get that. You need to be patient with players, give them the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and succeed. It's a learning process for everybody, so you try out different options and, sooner or later, something will click and then it starts to make sense. That's when you will hopefully start winning."

Is the game much different today than when you won the Stanley Cup in 2003?

"I kind of feel like there's a new era of where young players are tremendously skilled and the hockey is different because of the way it's played. It's fast and the officiating is different with how things are called. It's supposed to be attractive for fans, but the bottom line is that you've still got to win a hockey game. You've got to have discipline and an identity. Everyone needs to be held accountable. These are the basic building blocks needed to be successful, even sometimes when you don't have such a talented team. I remember [longtime Devils general manager] Lou [Lamoriello] once telling us that talent will never beat hard work, and there's something to that. In this new era of hockey, you see that guys are talented, but you still need to work hard and show you care. Whenever I struggled, hockey-wise, people would tell me, 'Just get back to basics.' They were right because the basics are the most important thing."

Video: The guys discuss Patrik Elias' career as a Devil

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