New Jersey Devils center Jack Hughes, the first overall pick in this summer’s draft, met with the media during the NHL’s prospect showcase at MedStar Capitals Iceplex on Sunday afternoon. He discussed the influence that his family has made on him, the impact that the USA Hockey program has had on him, and more.
“You look back at it a little bit. But for me, I’m 18. I’ve got a lot of hockey left in me so that’s not just the first game,” Hughes said.
“I think it’s a good team that’s really built well through the draft. [There’s] a lot of good young players that can play, three of us [are] here. So, it’s really exciting. We’ve got a really good couple years coming up for the New Jersey Devils,” he said about the up-and-coming Devils team.
Hughes, 18, also discussed defenseman P.K. Subban, who was acquired by the Devils from the Nashville Predators the day after he was selected, saying, “I’ve talked to him once but I’m really excited to get to know him. He’s a really fun guy and he should add some flavor to the team and make it fun.”
He described the first NHL game he will play against his brother Quinn and the Vancouver Canucks (which could be on Saturday, October 19) as “crazy.” Hughes added, “I’ll probably have 50-60 family [members] and friends, so that night’s going to be crazy for sure. There will be some bragging rights on the line.”
“[Quinn’s] kind of been attached to my hip for the last little bit. We’ve both been together through the draft and [development] camp throughout the summer. I mean, it’s going to be pretty cool coming into the league. At the same time, we’ll be battling for rookie of the year. It’s awesome. We’re proud of each other. It’s great. I mean, we’re really tight.,” he said.
Hughes said that his parents have “taught [me and Quinn] everything including really good sportsmanship, both my mom and my dad. Great hockey minds and helps us every time.”
Hughes did not hold back his excitement when asked about his NHL debut, which will likely come on Friday, October 4 at Prudential Center, saying, “It’s great. I’m a hockey player. That’s what I want to do – play hockey. I just want to skip to that game vs. [the] Winnipeg [Jets] on [opening night]. I’m really excited for that moment and I’m for sure counting the days down to that day.”
He described being in Toronto for a lot of time as”crazy.” He continued, saying, “Hockey is like a religion. I don’t know if I’m the player that I am [today] without Toronto. [I] go back up there in the summer, see friends, trainer, you know. It’s a special place and if you want to be a hockey player, that’s one of the spots to go to.”
On what improvements he’s tried to make for his first full NHL season, Hughes said, “I’ve just been kind of working on rounding out my game, getting a good learning experience, playing in the men’s worlds, and figuring stuff out but I think [that] I’ve had a good summer of training and I feel good right now.”
Hughes discussed the importance of the USA Hockey program, where he’s been for the last two years, saying, “I think USA Hockey is probably at the highest peak it’s ever been on right now. We had eight kids in the first round just off of one team. It’s pretty insane how far USA Hockey has come. [It’s] a really good place and there’s going to be a lot of kids coming up from there.”
“I mean, it’s a little wild. Obviously, a lot of players have gone through the program but I mean, I had a really good two years there. I’m determined. I set that goal to accomplish those goals. I think for me, I had a really good two years there. I just sit there with my phone looking at the stats record. I’m way past that and things like that,” he continued.
Hughes discussed New York Rangers forward Kaapo Kakko, who went right after him in the draft, saying, “I think he’s a great player. Obviously, [he] had a very good year last year and a really exciting player to watch. I’m sure it’ll be a big rivalry for a lot of years.”
Hughes said that he would like to go to the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing “but it’s not my decision.” He also acknowledged that he “need[s] to make the team first. I found something that I got really good at for a while.”
Hughes said that he feels like he is more NHL-ready now than in the spring. “I think I have more knowledge now, have talked to more people, more ready to play in the NHL. Obviously, that’s a lot different – the men’s world team and the NHL. I feel really confident after a good summer that I can come in and do well,” he stated
On what he’s focused on to take that step, Hughes responded “I think for me, there’s a lot of things [to focus on]. It’s a moving part. Things that it’s going to be like ups and downs. I’m going to have good weeks and bad weeks; bad games, good games. I just got to stay balanced and keep doing my thing.”
Hughes told the media that “I’m obviously getting stronger. The easiest thing is not to get hit. Obviously, that’s the easiest thing for me to do. It’s going to happen in the NHL, though, so I’m prepared for that,” when asked about how he plans to adjust to the big leagues.
By Harrison Brown