NHL PROSPECT REPORT
Written: July 27, 2018
One thing Americans do well these days is make great hockey players.
The USNDP (United States National Development Program) is easily one of the best, if not THE best program for kids trying to make it to the show. They have an excellent system which allows young prospects to work their way up the ranks to play against much older competitors which furthers their development. Many of the NHL's top players have come out of this program including Patrick Kane, Seth Jones, Zach Werenksi, John Gibson, Jack Eichel, Auston Matthews, Clayton Keller and Jacob Trouba just to name a few.
Jack Hughes' older brother Quinn Hughes was most recently the 7th overall pick of the Vancouver Canucks at this years draft. Both Quinn and Jack are unbelievable skaters, easily at the top of their class and both could compete in the NHL based on skating alone. Both Hughes brothers can make plays at top speed and have elite stickhandling and playmaking abilities.
These Hughes kids can definitely play in the "new-age" NHL. The main difference between the brothers is that Jack is a centre, a centre who's poised to be the undisputed number one pick in Vancouver at the 2019 NHL Draft.
Jack is not a big kid by any means, in fact he is quite short. Standing at only 5 foot 10 inches and 160 pounds he doesn't fit the typical build of a centre, however nobody cares how big you are when you put up 116 points in 60 games as a 16 year old, only one point shy of the record set by Auston Matthews who was one year older.
Austin Matthews is by far the best comparison to Jack in terms of ceiling and potential. However there are some subtle differences between them as well. Jack is a bit smaller, but he's also a better skater who dangles more. Some scouts go as far to compare Jack to Connor McDavid, however I think that's a bit of a stretch. Other scouts compare him to Patrick Kane in his draft year, but again I think this fails to capture who Jack really is.
What makes Jack so good is his ability to read the play. He makes plays at incredible speed all while making it look effortless. Furthermore he makes the players around him better; he had two excellent wingers in Farabee and Wahlstrom and he improved both of their draft stock immensely this season.
Jack could easily be the first player ever to make the jump from the US U-18 squad straight to the NHL, that is how good he is. However, the more likely route is he goes to the NCAA as a 17 year old. Mississauga still owns his rights if he decided to go the OHL route, but that is the least likely option.
What is obvious is Jack has nothing left to prove at the USHL level and whoever gets the first pick next year will be getting a generational talent whether he chooses the NCAA or tries to jump straight to the NHL. This kid is truly special, and while tanking doesn't guarantee you the first overall pick, I'll still take those odds at finishing last at 18.5%.
So what happens if you land pick #2 or #3? Well you're still in luck there's a few good centres poised to go in the top 5 in 2019. There's the speedy and skilled Alexander Newhook from Victoria in the BCHL, or the huge 6 foot 4 Kirby Dach who was #2 overall selection by Saskatoon Blades in the WHL Bantam Draft.
With plenty of bottom feeder teams needing a top centre, this is a good year to be bad... are you listening Senators, Canucks, Red Wings, Sabres and Islanders?
I once saw an interview with Mark Scheifele where he was in his apartment with a few friends just watching and talking hockey. Mark's passion for the game is obvious, he loves the sport so much he can never get enough and I believe it's this quality that helped launch him from a great hockey player to a generational one.
The Hughes brothers are no different, Jack and his brothers Quinn and Luke-- yes there's a 3rd even younger brother-- all have a passion for the game that is undervalued in today's NHL, a passion that cannot be taught.
Jack has the potential to be better then fellow American centre's Jack Eichel and Auston Matthews. Two players who are both considered generational talents for their respective teams.
While no prospect is a ever sure thing, this kid looks to be as good as it gets.