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Hughes, No. 1 pick in 2019 Draft, signs entry-level contract with Devils

Center had 112 points with NTDP last season, played for United States at World Championship

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

Jack Hughes, the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the New Jersey Devils on Friday. It has an average annual value of $925,000.

"It's exciting because it's my first contract, so it's pretty cool, but nice to put that behind you," Hughes said. "It's kind of crazy. I know when I think about it, you get a lot of emotions running through your mind because it's a really special moment for me and my family."

The 18-year-old center led the USA Hockey National Team Development Program Under-18 team with 112 points (34 goals, 78 assists) in 50 games last season, and his 228 points (74 goals, 154 assists) in two seasons set the NTDP record.

 

[RELATED: 2019 NHL Draft first-round pick signings tracker]

 

Hughes (5-foot-10, 170 pounds) is participating in Devils development camp this week, learning concepts and becoming familiar with Prudential Center. He has done everything from impressing season-ticket holders during a 3-on-3, four-team tournament that his team won Wednesday to attending field trips with fellow prospects.

"It's been great to understand the culture a little bit more, get comfortable with the people here," Hughes said. "For me, it's all about being comfortable and learning new things."

A few of those things include understanding the daily routine as a professional athlete.

"It's about getting to the weight room early, and that the meetings don't start at 9 a.m., but at 8:45 a.m.," he said. "You always have to be on your A game, stop and talk to people, and try to learn their names ... simple things like that. I think that's the Devils way, and that's what makes it a special group."

Video: Hughes hears Devils call name with No. 1 overall pick

New Jersey senior director of player personnel Dan MacKinnon said Hughes has been everything the Devils had envisioned.

"He's a student of the game, respectful and confident," MacKinnon said. "His ability to execute in small space, which is so much a part of how offenses generate in today's NHL, is phenomenal. I just think he's going to be able to have success because he's able to do that.

"It's not that he needs to skate away from players to create his offense, which some guys have to do to get separation, but he's able to execute when there's really not much room at all. It's going to be interesting to see how that translates to the NHL."

Hughes said he will return to Toronto at the conclusion of camp Saturday to continue preparing for Devils training camp in September.

"I think for me, it's about getting bigger and stronger and enhancing my skills," he said. "Once I get here for training camp, I'll learn a lot more. I'll maybe put on two or three more pounds but nothing crazy. I don't want to get too big where I can't move out there, so I'll add a little bit of muscle. I think that'll be good for me."

Hughes had 20 points (nine goals, 11 assists) in seven games to help the United States finish third at the 2019 IIHF World Under-18 Championship and finished one point shy of the single-tournament record of 21 points set by forward Nikita Kucherov of Russia, now with the Tampa Bay Lightning, in 2011. Hughes finished his season with three assists in seven games for the United States at the 2019 IIHF World Championship.

Video: Devils draft F Jack Hughes No. 1

Devils director of player and team development Dr. Aimee Kimball met Hughes during the interviewing portion of the NHL Scouting Combine in Buffalo in May. She came away extremely impressed with his maturity and confidence as a teenager.

"I remember at one point asking him about being captain (at the NTDP) and he explained to me how he tries to share some of his experiences," Kimball said. "He said being the same age, nobody was really the veteran, but that he might have some experiences they didn't, so he tried to share that and those players do the same with everyone else. I felt that showed a lot about him, kind of sharing and helping each other when in need."

Hughes is the sixth player selected in the first round of the 2019 draft to sign an entry-level contract. Forward Kaapo Kakko, the No. 2 pick, signed with the New York Rangers on Thursday.

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