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Hughes quickly embracing life with Devils

TV interviews, trip to Yankees game highlight first NHL acts for No. 1 pick in 2019 Draft

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- Jack Hughes has been on a whirlwind tour of the New York metropolitan area since the New Jersey Devils made him the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, and he's enjoying every second of it.

"I love the East Coast, and Jersey is a great spot to live," the 18-year-old center said at his introductory press conference at Prudential Center on Tuesday. "I'm so excited to play for the Devils; it's going to be an awesome place to play."

Hughes, born in Orlando, Florida, raised in Toronto and now living in Michigan, had never been to New Jersey prior to this week, but he's making quite the first impression, just as his new home has impressed him. 

 

[RELATED: Hughes, Subban impact discussed | Hughes fantasy projection]

 

That was evident at the press conference, when Hughes displayed the same poised demeanor he showed this entire season when he led the USA Hockey National Team Development Program Under-18 team with 112 points (34 goals, 78 assists) in 50 games.

Among the memorable responses by Hughes at the press conference on Tuesday:

On learning he would fly from Vancouver to New Jersey following the Draft on a private jet: "I was just hoping for a window seat on a commercial flight."

On possibly playing No. 2 center behind Nico Hischier: "To win you have to have a 1-A and 1-B. No team has won with just one very good center."

On picking jersey No. 86: "Well, [Devils captain Andy Greene] wears No. 6, so probably not the best start if I ask the captain to change his number."

On comparisons to Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane and New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal: "I want to be Jack Hughes. I want to have my own flavor, my own excitement. I want fans to kind of want to be Jack Hughes."

Tweet from @NJDevils: Nothing like seeing your @NHL jersey for the first time.Jack Hughes will wear #86 for the #NJDevils. pic.twitter.com/LLyjl87UTH

His parents are not surprised by how well Hughes worked the room Tuesday.

"He is very well spoken because he grew up around it," said Ellen Hughes, Jack's mother. "He's watched this since he was a little kid, so it's nothing we taught him. It's organically happened for him and so I think those are the things that make me smile. All the environments he's been in growing up, he's gained such valuable knowledge and now he's applying it."

Jack's father, Jim, was an assistant with the Boston Bruins when Jack was 2 months old. Two years later, in 2003, the family moved to Manchester, New Hampshire, where Jim was an American Hockey League assistant for two seasons, then coach for one season. They settled in Toronto in 2006 when Jim became an assistant for the AHL team there.

Tweet from @NJDevils: Welcome to Jersey, Hughes fam. pic.twitter.com/5eT18bfKq8

And now Hughes will settle in New Jersey after a head-spinning tour of the area the past two days.

Hughes and his parents joined Devils general manager Ray Shero and president Hugh Weber on the private jet from Vancouver to Newark on Sunday afternoon. The Hughes family had dinner with Devils legend and executive Martin Brodeur and managing partner David Blitzer and his wife before he interviewed with FOX 5 Sports Xtra and NBC SportsFinal later that evening.

The schedule on Monday included 12 interviews, including an appearance on The Michael Kay Show on ESPN Radio and YES Network TV, and the NHL Network from on the field at Yankee Stadium prior to the Yankees-Toronto Blue Jays game. 

Tweet from @NJDevils: Hockey legend Jack Hughes meets local golf legend Happy Gilmore. pic.twitter.com/klqUdh3VBc

Hughes, a Yankees fan, said he also had an opportunity to meet and talk to comedian/actor Adam Sandler and Baseball Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson.

Hughes joined 40 recent youth hockey graduates from the Devils Learn to Play (LTP) and Girls Only LTP program in a FUNdamental development clinic at the RWJBarnabas Health Hockey House at Prudential Center following the press conference before leaving for Toronto on Tuesday night. He will commence training for Devils development camp, which starts July 8.

"The one thing I've noticed about the Devils is how it's a family," Hughes said. "I mean, everyone I've interacted with is so great. To be able to play in front of these fans and work for and play for people in the front office and management is really exciting."

Video: Hughes on Subban trade as he takes in Yankee game

In addition to acquiring the projected best player in the 2019 Draft, New Jersey acquired defenseman P.K. Subban in a trade with the Nashville Predators for defensemen Steven Santini and Jeremy Davies, a second-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft and a second-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft on June 22.

"We have an opportunity to be relevant after winning the NHL Draft Lottery and choosing [Hughes] and then pulling the trigger on Subban," Brodeur said. "In a span of 48 hours, it's like, 'Whoa.' Now we're the team being talked about and for our area, it's certainly a step in the right direction.

Tweet from @NJDevils: And the crowd goes wild in Newark! pic.twitter.com/MpLFKveyAe

"We're looking forward to seeing how everything is going to pan out, but we're in a better spot than we were when we played the Florida Panthers the last game of the 2018-19 season."

The Devils (31-41-10) finished 29th in the NHL and missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the sixth time in seven seasons in 2018-19. 

"Hopefully, I can be a pretty good public figure and be a good person for the fans in the New Jersey area," Hughes said. "I know it's a pretty diehard fan base so I'm really excited for this. I know as I get older, I'll get better at it." 

 

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Listen: New episode of NHL Draft Class presented by adidas

 

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