Jack Hughes has to deal with not only being the son of a National Hockey League general manager, but also with having the same name as a recent first overall pick and budding superstar.
It just so happens that the two teams most impacted by that are the two teams picking first and second overall in the 2022 NHL Draft, which also happens to be his draft year. What are the odds, right?
Although he’s not in the conversation for those two picks (despite a joking warning to the contrary), Hughes will likely be taken in the first two rounds, and is a talented prospect on the ice.
Birthplace: Westwood, Massachusetts
Date of birth: November 2, 2003
Weight: 170 lbs.
Team: Northeastern Huskies (NCAA)
Hughes is one of the rare first-year draft eligible prospects to play NCAA hockey in their draft year. In fact, only 44 skaters have played at least 15 games in the top division since 2008.
His scoring numbers don’t leap off the page, but draft-eligible prospects are often among the youngest players in the NCAA. Hughes was the youngest player in the top division of US college hockey this past season, beating fellow draft-eligible player Jack Devine by a month.
Of his 16 points, 14 were at even strength, and 12 of those were primary points showing that he was able to produce in his freshman season without power play time. While falling short of some of the elite players to play NCAA hockey in their draft year, those numbers slot him pretty easily among the second tier, per the numbers at Pick224.com.
At 0.31 even strength primary points per game, he slots in right behind Dylan Holloway (0.34) and ahead of first-round picks Tage Thompson (0.22) and Ryan Poehling (0.17) historically. He also finished eighth in team scoring, ahead of several older players including his brother Riley, who was drafted in the seventh round by the New York Rangers in 2018.
Although his points totals are hard to get a grasp on, playing against older players allowed people to evaluate other parts of his game. He has shown he’s able to play in the grinding style of the NCAA, and for a team that won the Hockey East championship. He was named to the Hockey East All-Rookie team.
His calling card is his speed. His skating and ability to handle the puck with speed is what has him in the conversation in the draft’s top two rounds. The issue is that it hasn’t been something that he has shown consistently. The ability to make those kinds of plays makes him projectable and provides him with plenty of upside, but he will have to improve his consistency to become a top-six player at the professional level.
His passing is good, but his vision has been inconsistent. While his puck handling has been a strength, he does have the puck fall off his stick at times as well.
His all-around game, however, makes him a pretty good bet to make the NHL in some capacity, even if it is in a bottom-six role. Like many sons of coaches — his father Kent coached him until he joined St. Sebastian’s prep school and then the USA Hockey Development program — he has an ability to read the game well at both ends of the ice.
His ability to transform his game based on what his team needs is something that makes him a very projectable professional player. His work ethic is also high. Scouts rave about his ability to always work hard on the back-check.
There are definitely offensive tools with Hughes, but how he harnesses them will determine just how successful he will be offensively at the next level.
Elite Prospects: #44
Bob McKenzie (TSN): *27#
NHL Central Scouting: #26 (North American Skaters)
Corey Pronman (The Athletic) #46
Scott Wheeler (The Athletic): #29
Draft Prospect Hockey: #29
Hockey Prospect: #58
Craig Button: #73
* = not final ranking
As you can see, his range is likely the end of round one, going into the second or even third round. The issue with Hughes is that the offensive upside is low, and that tends to scare evaluators into raising his ranking, especially in this range.
There are questions about his physical state. He hasn’t really developed physically, even though he is a late-2003 birth date. He needs to add weight, and how that will affect him adds to the challenge of evaluating him as a player.
It means his path to professional hockey will likely take several years, but that also will provide him with plenty of time to refine his game. As he becomes more experienced and bigger, he might start to raise his upside into a top-six center rather than a third-line or bottom-six player.
The issue with Hughes when it comes to the Montreal Canadiens specifically, is the obvious connection to the team’s general manager. The team had what Hughes called an awkward combine interview with him and the scouting staff insisted the father stay in the room.
The Canadiens would likely much rather another team take Hughes before they get to the microphone with him as their top player on the board. There is some history for the Canadiens in this regard. The previous Canadiens administration told QMJHL scout Donald Audette to spend the draft with his son before they took Daniel. Jeff Gorton was part of the Rangers staff that drafted Jack’s brother Riley.
Considering the range of where they pick, it’s not out of the question that the Canadiens draft him, but it would probably be better for all parties to not have their paths cross.
There’s also the connection to Canadiens’ prospects Jordan Harris and Jayden Struble and, of course, Martin St. Louis’s son is also on the Northeastern hockey team.
His numbers as a young player in the NCAA are favorite to players taken in the first round, especially late. Hughes is likely never going to be a can’t miss prospect, but there is a lot of value in him as a prospect especially once the second round begins.