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Hughes takes ice with Devils for first time at development camp

No. 1 pick in 2019 Draft 'looks effortless out there'

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

NEWARK, N.J. -- Jack Hughes appears right at home at his first development camp with the New Jersey Devils.

The No. 1 pick of the 2019 NHL Draft arrived Monday evening and took part in practice Tuesday. The 18-year-old center exhibited confidence in his game, made a few special plays and never hesitated to ask a question.

"We got our feet under us, so it was good to get out there with the jersey on for the first time," Hughes said. "There a lot of smart people here who can teach you a lot of things, so for me it's all a learning curve. I'll get a lot more comfortable with New Jersey over the week, find my way around the rink and get to know the area a little bit better."

 

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Hughes (5-foot-10, 170 pounds) said he's committed to becoming the first player from the USA Hockey National Team Development Program to go directly from the draft to playing in the NHL.

The past 12 No. 1 NHL Draft picks have played in the NHL the season after being selected, including former NTDP center Auston Matthews, who won the 2017 Calder Trophy voted as NHL rookie of the year playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs (2016 NHL Draft).

"That's the goal," Hughes said. "I'm focused and ready to play in the NHL. I want to be successful, and it's not really a thing I think about because it's kind of an expectation for me."

Video: DEV CAMP | Hughes' First Day

Hughes is roommates this week with former NTDP forward Joey Anderson, chosen in the third round (No. 73) of the 2016 NHL Draft. There are two other NTDP players in camp: defenseman Case McCarthy (2019 draft, No. 118) and forward Patrick Moynihan (2019 draft, No. 158).

Mark Dennehy, coach of Binghamton in the American Hockey League, ran warmup and shooting drills, zone entries, 2-on-1s and small-ice games.

"The first thing that jumps out at you is his skating, his edgework is just flawless," Anderson said of Hughes. "He looks effortless out there. There's a reason he's better than everybody else, and you can see why right away."

Hughes was the fifth NTDP player selected No. 1 (Matthews; Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks, 2007; Erik Johnson, St. Louis Blues, 2006; Rick DiPietro, New York Islanders, 2000). Dennehy, who met Hughes on Tuesday, came away impressed.

"More often than not, the people who ask the most questions are usually the smartest," Dennehy said. "The guys who are fearful of asking questions are sort of unsure of themselves, so just the fact [Jack] was asking, 'All right, what do you want from this?' means he's got an understanding of it. You can tell he thinks the game at a high level."

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

Hughes became the youngest American to play for his country at the IIHF World Championship in May. He was a top-nine forward on the 2019 team of NHL players that included his brother Quinn Hughes, a Vancouver Canucks defenseman.

"The smart ones figure out early how to play against bigger, stronger guys, and Jack has done that his whole career," Devils assistant general manager Tom Fitzgerald said. "He hasn't been the biggest player on the ice, ever, but he's a heck of a player because of his competitiveness, hockey instincts, skill and inner driver."

McCarthy said he is confident Hughes is going to succeed as an NHL rookie.

"He's going to be a franchise player and is going to turn some heads," McCarthy said. "I've heard the criticisms, especially about his size, but that's not going to be a factor because he's such a phenomenal skater. He can change direction in a heartbeat. I know because I practiced against him every day."

Main photo courtesy of Greg Pallante/NewJerseyDevils.com and secondary photo courtesy of Chris Wescott/NewJerseyDevils.com 

 

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