Undersized Hughes stands out as prime NHL draft prospect

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Dan Marr will always remember the primary time Jack Hughes landed on his radar as a possible prime NHL draft prospect.

It occurred final summer season, when the NHL Central Scouting director was attending a expertise camp in Toronto.

After itemizing New Jersey’s Taylor Corridor, Edmonton’s Connor McDavid and then-Islanders captain John Tavares as the very best three gamers on the ice, Marr added: “The next best player was Jack Hughes.”

Even at 5-foot-10 and 170 kilos, Marr stated the 17-year-old stood out for a wide range of causes.

“It was a series of drills that they were doing that involved skating, quickness, speed, execution, precision. And right away you could see he already has an NHL shot,” Marr stated Friday, talking on the NHL’s annual pre-draft scouting mix being held in Buffalo. “So he’s got the talent that he belongs in that group.”

Little or no has occurred to alter Marr or anybody else’s thoughts since.

From Orlando, Florida, Hughes is Central Scouting’s top-ranked North American skater after spending the previous two seasons setting USA Hockey Nationwide Workforce Growth Program’s document by combining for 228 factors (74 objectives, 154 assists) in 110 video games.

Finland’s Kaapo Kakko is the top-ranked European skater after finishing a season during which he helped his nation full a gold-medal sweep of worldwide titles by successful the world championship final weekend, the world junior title in January and the Below-18 title final yr.

The 2 are projected to be chosen with one of many two prime picks — the Devils choose first adopted by the New York Rangers — on the NHL draft at Vancouver, British Columbia on June 21-22.

After joking he’d look good in both a crimson Devils’ or blue Rangers’ jersey, Hughes stated he’d clearly want to go first.

“You always dream of being No. 1,” Hughes stated. “You don’t dream of being two, three or four when you’re a young kid.”

Hughes can also be conscious of how he and Kakko will draw comparisons with the chance of the 2 taking part in on Metropolitan Division rivals.

“We’ll be linked to each other for a lot of years with the Rangers and Devils right there,” Hughes stated.

Kakko just isn’t attending the mix as a result of the weeklong occasion, which incorporates player-team interviews and medical testing, started a day after Finland beat Canada to win the world championships in Slovakia on Sunday.

“It has zero affect really,” Marr stated about Kakko’s absence. “I think the teams understand that. And the teams at the top, they’re just going to have to spend a little bit more time with him when he comes over for the draft.”

The 2 gamers differ in measurement and magnificence of play.

At 6-foot-2 and 194 kilos, Kakko is understood for his goal-scoring means and thought of extra of an influence ahead.

He led Finland with six objectives in 10 video games on the World Championship. His 22 objectives within the Finnish Elite League final season have been essentially the most by a draft-eligible participant.

Hughes is a swift-skating, play-making middle. He comes from a hockey household. His brother Quinn Hughes is a defenseman who was chosen by Vancouver with the No. 7 choose within the draft final yr. His father, Jim Hughes, is a former hockey coach, who additionally served because the Toronto Maple Leafs director of participant improvement.

Hughes credit the time he spend taking part in youth hockey in Toronto as taking part in a key position in his improvement.

“Toronto’s probably the capital of the hockey world. You win the Greater Toronto Hockey League finals, you think it’s the Stanley Cup,” he stated. “Do I think I’d be the player I am today without Toronto? Probably not. … That’s the reason I’m here today.”

Hughes additionally performed on the worlds and completed with 4 assists in 4 video games for the US, which was eradicated by Russia within the quarterfinal spherical.

Among the many highlights was getting the chance to play with NHL stars akin to Chicago’s Patrick Kane.

Hughes grew up idolizing Kane as they’re each under-sized forwards who play an identical model.

It got here as a shock to Hughes upon listening to Kane pay him a praise by telling he believes Hughes “does a lot of things better than me.”

“You almost think he’s full of (baloney),” Hughes stated, earlier than itemizing the three Stanley Cups and quite a few different awards Kane has received. “You name it, he’s got it. To hear your name out of his mouth is one thing. To hear him say those nice things about you truly shows how good of a person he is.”


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