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Hughes closing in on NTDP career points record

Top-rated player for 2019 NHL Draft needs five to pass Keller

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

PLYMOUTH, Mich. -- Jack Hughes, No. 1 in NHL Central Scouting's midterm ranking of North American skaters eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft, will try to set the career record for points with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program this weekend.

The 5-foot-10, 168-pound center has 185 points (60 goals, 125 assists) in 95 NTDP games (1.95 points per game) in two seasons with the Under-17 and Under-18 NTDP teams. He needs five points to pass forward Clayton Keller, now with the Arizona Coyotes, who had 189 points (71 goals, 118 assists) in 123 games (1.54 points per game) from 2014-16.

Hughes set the NTDP record for career assists (125) last week. He has 24 points (11 goals, 13 assists) and eight multipoint games during an 11-game point streak, and 69 points (20 goals, 49 assists) in 35 games this season. The NTDP Under-18 team team plays Green Bay of the United States Hockey League at USA Hockey Arena on Friday and Saturday.

"I'm five points away, so at some point it's going to happen," Hughes said of the NTDP career points record. "I'm real excited. Now that my time with the program is kind of coming to an end with just 14 regular-season games left, records are being broken so it's really cool to know what I've accomplished here."

Right wing Cole Caufield (5-7, 155), who usually plays on a line with Hughes and is No. 15 in NHL Central Scouting's midterm ranking of North American skaters, needs six goals to pass forward Phil Kessel, now with the Pittsburgh Penguins, for the all-time NTDP lead.

"I think working every day in practice and on my shot makes it that much more special because I know the amount of work I've put into this," Caufield said.

Caufield has 99 goals in 108 games (0.92 goals per game) with the NTDP, including 45 in 49 games this season. Kessel had 104 goals in 117 games (0.89 goals per game) from 2003-05. Caufield is 10 goals shy of tying Auston Matthews, now with the Toronto Maple Leafs, for the most goals in a season for the NTDP. Matthews scored 55 goals with the U-18 team in 2014-15.

"Individual awards mean a lot to our staff and to that dressing room for those guys to get it because it is a true reflection of the team," NTDP U-18 coach John Wroblewski said. "You look at how many different guys [Jack] has assisted, or Cole, how many guys assisted him along the way. And it's important to remember that Cole did a lot of his damage when Jack wasn't his center. They are dangerous and produce and are more than just a goal-scoring tandem ... they tilt the ice in our favor consistently and spend very little time in our defensive zone."

Caufield was asked if he gave any thought about the possibility of scoring his record-breaking goal off an assist and record-breaking point from Hughes.

"I've been really lucky to play with [Hughes] these two seasons," Caulfield said. "These past two years has been really special ... the bond me and Jack have on the ice together. His game complements mine, and I do the same for him."

Hughes, 17, is the brother of Vancouver Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes, the No. 7 pick of the 2018 NHL Draft. Quinn, 19, signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Canucks on Monday, one day after completing his second season with the University of Michigan.

Hughes and Caufield are two of eight NTDP players projected as first-round candidates in the 2019 NHL Draft; the others are forwards Alex Turcotte (No. 5 on Central Scouting's midterm list of North American skaters), Matthew Boldy (No. 6), Trevor Zegras (No. 7), defensemen Cameron York (No. 12) and Alex Vlasic (No. 25), and goaltender Spencer Knight (No. 1 among North American goalies).

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