Jack Hughes, the projected No. 1 pick of the 2019 NHL Draft in Vancouver on June 21-22, is writing a monthly diary this season for NHL.com leading up to the draft. The 17-year-old center, who is the brother of Vancouver Canucks defenseman prospect Quinn Hughes, the No. 7 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, is playing for USA Hockey's National Team Development Program under-18 team and has 56 points (13 goals, 43 assists) in 28 games this season.
In his sixth entry, Hughes talks about his return to the lineup after missing seven games with a lower-body injury and his thoughts on the final stretch of the season.
Hi hockey fans!
I feel good and should be ready to go for this weekend (against Sioux Falls on Friday and at Chicago on Saturday). While I was recovering, I was on the ice, getting my cardio back to where it needs to be, and I was going through rehabilitation, therapy and workouts. The biggest thing was getting back on the ice to get my timing back.
I realize it's important to make certain I'm feeling good each day at this point in the season. My body is what allows me to do what I do. If it's not in the right state, I won't be able to be me. But I'm not too worried about that. I'm kind of just going to play my game and not worry about injuries. It's hockey, so I'll just keep moving forward and whatever happens, happens. I want to help my team.
It was tough not being able to play and be a part of the group at the Under-18 Five Nations Tournament in Russia last week. Obviously, that was a tournament we would have liked to have won but losing two of four games was a wake-up call. We have some work to do and nothing is going to be handed to us come April at the 2019 IIHF World Under-18 Championship (April 18-28) in Sweden. Now we can focus in on winning that gold medal.
It's a huge tournament for all of us at the NTDP because the United States has kind of dominated that event the last 15 years, so we want to be a part of that domination. For us, we played two years together, and this will be the last tournament that we're really going to be together, so all the hard work and all the things we've gone through come down to this tournament. That's why it means a lot to all of us. We really want to get that done to cap off our two years with the program.
We're kind of in the winning mode now. Everything we do from this point on is planned with April in mind. The message from coach John Wroblewski right now is we have seven weeks until Sweden, we've worked so hard the last two years and while we're not in desperation mode, we want to win. We'll do whatever it takes to get that gold medal. Our time together is coming to an end, so we want to make the most of it. We should be really hungry these next couple of weeks in preparation for that.
Obviously, team goals are most important to me, but on a personal note I'd love to set the records for career assists and points at the NTDP. I'm four assists from breaking the assist record by Jeremy Bracco (122) and 18 points from Clayton Keller's mark (189), so those are important things, too, in capping off my two years at the development program.
There's not a lot of down time right now at the program. It's really busy and the days are long. Anytime you have a day off, it's really all about resting the body or hanging out with the guys. There's not a lot of special things happening at this point in the season. It's just a lot of preparation. I'll probably have some down-time coming up when we're in Sweden in April at our hotel and in-between games and workouts.
Until next month, thanks for reading.