Jack Hughes had a formidable 2021-22 season, ending with 56 factors in 49 video games, a 94-point tempo over 82 video games. But it was reduce brief by accidents, a dislocated shoulder early within the season, and an MCL sprain in April that ended his 2021-22.
That was removed from a deterrent in Hughes having a real breakout season in 2022-23, nonetheless. He completed with 99 factors in 77 video games and recorded the primary 40-goal marketing campaign of his younger profession. He has an opportunity to match these totals this season and even surpass them. It may once more be the Year of Hughes in New Jersey, as 100 factors shouldn’t be out of the query.
Hughes’ Elite Abilities
Everything the Devils thought Hughes can be after they made him the first-overall pick in 2019 got here to fruition final season. The elite game-breaking ability was on show, and he was a magician to observe on the ice. Think of Prime Patrick Kane when the Chicago Blackhawks have been a dynasty.
Hughes wasn’t simply the Devils’ finest facilitator, however he was additionally probably the greatest within the NHL. He was elite at creating probabilities off the push as a playmaker and shot generator. His easy skating helped flip him into probably the greatest transition facilities within the league. And he virtually hardly ever dumps the puck in; there isn’t a zone entry Hughes doesn’t like.
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The Devils tilted play when Hughes was on the ice, totaling a 58.62 anticipated objectives proportion (xG%) throughout his five-on-five minutes. He averaged 2.80 factors per 60 minutes at that sport state, making him the staff’s best five-on-five scorer and probably the most environment friendly within the league.
What’s so spectacular about Hughes is how a lot he’s improved since his rookie season. The transition sport was there at the same time as a rookie, however the elite play driving has come a great distance. Perhaps essentially the most spectacular growth in his sport is his shot, as he’s change into one of many extra underrated shooters within the NHL.
The playmaking was all the time going to be one among his strengths; it’s a part of what made him the highest prospect within the 2019 draft. But 40-goal potential wasn’t essentially within the playing cards. He already has one 43-goal 12 months and produced at a 40-plus-goal tempo in 2021-22. It’s in all probability unfair to count on that sort of scoring from him each season, nevertheless it may very properly be the norm.
Even Hughes’ two-way sport has improved fairly a bit. He’s not ever going to be Patrice Bergeron and even teammate Nico Hischier defensively. But head coach Lindy Ruff in all probability gained’t have to fret about his star participant being a defensive legal responsibility.
If there’s one space Hughes has to enhance, it might be faceoffs. He’s at 35.4 p.c for his profession, however on the identical time, he’ll by no means must be elite at faceoffs for his staff to own the puck. Just take a look at the Devils’ xG% from a season in the past with him on the ice. They nonetheless dominated throughout his ice time with out him successful faceoffs persistently.
Potential Linemates for Hughes in 2023-24
Hughes’ most typical linemate a season in the past was Jesper Bratt, and I’m not anticipating that to vary a lot in 2023-24. The two of them spent 567 minutes collectively a season in the past and posted a wonderful 63.58 xG% at five-on-five.
On the Sept. 15 episode of 32 Thoughts, Hughes spoke in regards to the chemistry between him and Bratt and the way they know one another’s tendencies so properly. That’s what makes them so dynamic and why Ruff will maintain them collectively most of the time.
Who performs alongside them will rely a bit on the state of affairs, however Tyler Toffoli, who the Devils acquired from the Calgary Flames this summer season, is an efficient guess to be their most typical linemate. He’s coming off a 34-goal, 73-point effort with the Flames a season in the past and is a stable finisher who can create loads of his personal probabilities.
Erik Haula spent loads of time alongside Bratt and Hughes a season in the past. While I don’t count on to see that combo as a lot this season, Ruff will flip to it if he feels the necessity to. That trio posted an insane 73.3 xG% in 182 minutes in 2022-23, and Haula’s faceoff capacity (54 p.c for his profession) may also help make up for Hughes’ struggles within the dot.
It’ll even be fascinating to see if Alexander Holtz will get taking part in time alongside Hughes sooner or later. Holtz’s taking pictures capacity would make him a superb match alongside Bratt and Hughes. But for now, it seems he’ll start the preseason on a line with Hischier and Timo Meier. Still, if he produces and performs properly at first of the common season, don’t be stunned to see Holtz with Hughes if Ruff wants a changeup.
Hughes & the Century Mark
Hughes needs to be in line for one other very productive season, regardless of who his linemates are. It’s not unreasonable to suppose he can crack 100 factors if he stays wholesome. Had he not missed 5 video games popping out of the 2023 all-star break, he more than likely would’ve change into the primary 100-point scorer in franchise historical past.
Perhaps it’s daring to say he’ll submit 100 factors this season as a result of it’s not simple to do. But the Devils needs to be probably the greatest offensive groups within the NHL this season, and Hughes might be one among its foremost catalysts. The 2023-24 marketing campaign might be the 12 months he makes some Devils historical past by changing into the primary participant to crack the century mark.
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