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NHL Draft

2019 Draft Diary: Jack Hughes

Projected No. 1 pick discusses excitement for World Championship, disappointment with end of U-18 tournament

by Jack Hughes / Special to NHL.com

Jack Hughes, the projected No. 1 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft in Vancouver on June 21-22, has been writing a monthly diary this season for NHL.com leading up to the draft. The 17-year-old center, the brother of Vancouver Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes, had 112 points (34 goals, 78 assists) in 50 games for USA Hockey's National Team Development Program Under-18 team. He set NTDP records for assists (154) and points (228) in his two seasons with the program. In this entry, Hughes wraps up the IIHF 2019 World Under-18 Championship and talks about the upcoming IIHF World Championship in Slovakia.

Hello everyone.

I'm in Slovakia, getting set to represent the United States at the 2019 World Championship which begins today against Slovakia (2 p.m. ET; NHLN).

Before I talk about the World Championship, I wanted to wrap-up the World Under-18 Championship in Sweden. The thing I'm going to remember most about our U-18 team, which won the bronze medal, is the fun we had going to the rink. It was always a great time with those guys. We were awesome on the ice, but our best memories were off the ice.

It was tough losing to Russia in the semifinal round in a shootout. The Russia goalie, Yaroslav Askarov, played really well in that game. It was tough losing but that's what happens in those one-game sets when you run into a hot goalie. That's kind of what happened to us.

After that game we were pretty down because we weren't going to play for the gold medal and our hopes were kind of crushed, but we knew we had a 15-year streak of medaling at the tournament. Our coach, John Wroblewski, told us prior to the bronze-medal game against Canada that the game wasn't for us. It was for USA Hockey, for the crest on the front of the jersey. We had to carry on the streak, so that was our main mindset. We wanted to keep the streak going and we did with a 5-2 win.

As captain, I didn't say much ... coach said everything. I was kind of just focused on resetting my mind and going out and winning that game because that semifinal was a tough loss.

It was special to set the record for career points (32) at the U-18s in two tournaments and pass Alex Ovechkin. It's a record that was hard to break, so for me to do it was extremely exciting and special.

When I returned home from Sweden, I just hung out with my family and got some rest. I spent time with some friends, saw the new Avengers movie, "Avengers: Endgame," and we ate at Chipotle my first day back. I just kind of hung out and chilled and then decided to go back overseas and play in Slovakia at the World Championship.

Playing in this tournament was always an option; it was in the back of my mind. At first all my focus was on the Under-18s, but once that was over I figured out how I was feeling and where my head was at and was excited to have a chance to be able to play more hockey and not have my season come to an end. Playing with a group like this is special and something I'll cherish for a very long time.

I kind of made my mark at the U-18s so my mindset with where I stand in the NHL Draft, for me, is kind of over. Now it's about having a great experience. It's not often you get to play on a team with all these American stars. I mean, Ryan Suter, Patrick Kane, Dylan Larkin and Johnny Gaudreau are all high-end hockey players. Just to be around them day after day and learn things from every guy, talk to them and be around pros, I think will help me a lot, actually, with my jump to the NHL next season. This tournament isn't about the draft for me, it's more about becoming a pro and learning the system.

I'm rooming with my brother, Quinn, too, so how often do you get to room and play hockey with your brother on a big stage like this? That's obviously exciting, but I just didn't want my season to be over yet. It's just another opportunity to have fun and try to win a gold medal for Team USA.

I've been skating on a line with James van Riemsdyk (Philadelphia Flyers) and Alex DeBrincat (Chicago Blackhawks) in practices and our pretournament win against Germany on Monday. My teammate at the NTDP, Cole Caufield, reminds me a lot with how DeBrincat plays. They play the exact same way and are both elite scorers. It's a pretty easy adjustment for me.

James van Riemsdyk is also an unbelievable player; I grew up watching him with the Toronto Maple Leafs and knew his game well, so to be on a line with those two guys is really special. 

Honestly, I've maybe watched two or three games of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. There's just been so much going on and I've been so busy with the travel and time changes. I haven't been watching too much hockey but following the scores. I'm sure the teams that are still alive deserve to be there. They're all tough teams to play against.

Thanks for reading this month. The next diary will be coming from the NHL Scouting Combine in Buffalo; everything is happening so fast.

 

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