Jack Hughes wants to add his 'own flavor' to New Jersey renaissance
Newark, N.J. — The Devils introduced No. 1 overall pick Jack Hughes to New Jersey on Tuesday — even though he is already sharing the spotlight.
The Devils have given notice they might be re-emerging as a contender with an encouraging draft and the stunning acquisition of six-time All-Star defenseman P.K. Subban.
It has all gone a long way in turning pessimism into optimism for a team that finished with the league’s third-worst record and out of the playoffs for the sixth time in seven years.
“Adding a talent like Jack Hughes on Friday night and Saturday, P.K. Subban, obviously I think the Devils are back in business,” general manager Ray Shero said.
It started with winning the draft lottery in early April to the selection of Hughes, a center, with the top pick Friday to the trade for Subban, who immediately steps into the role as New Jersey’s top defenseman.
With 2017-18 MVP Taylor Hall expected to return to form after an injury-marred season, 2017 No. 1 pick Nico Hischier continuing his development and leading scorer Kyle Palmieri playing his best hockey, the Devils have a shot to do something in a league where the Blues came out of nowhere to win the Stanley Cup.
Devils majority owner Josh Harris can’t wait to the season to start, adding Devils’ fans are used to winning Stanley Cups — the last was in 2003 — and now is the time to start doing it again.
“Jack joining the franchise represents another turn in our goal to be elite,” Harris said at a news conference for Hughes at the Prudential Center.
With parents Jim and Ellen sitting in the front row, the 18-year-old Hughes was soft spoken, confident and composed speaking on a stage that included Harris and Shero.
Hughes, from the Plymouth-based U.S. National Development Team Program, said he had no doubt he would be playing next season in the NHL for the Devils and he hopes to play a creative game.
It is just what the talent-starved Devils need. The past week was a major step in Shero’s rebuilding plan over the past four years. It started soon after he was hired with the trades for Hall and Palmieri, the draft of Hischier, another center, and now the selection of Hughes and the trade with Nashville for Subban and his $9 million cap hit for each of the next three seasons.
Hughes hasn’t stopped going since the draft. He returned to New Jersey with Shero, Harris and his parents on a private jet and spent the next few days making media appearances. He attended the New York Yankees game against Toronto on Monday night, sitting for 30 minutes with Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson and actor Adam Sandler.
He is eager now to return to suburban Toronto, where he grew up, and begin preparations for an 82-game season against men, and being a part of a team.
“I want to be Jack Hughes, not Patrick Kane or Matt Barzal,” Hughes said. “I want to have my own flavor, my own excitement to my game.”
Hughes, a 170-pound playmaking center, mixed poise, drive and sheer skating ability to score 74 goals and 154 assists in 110 games with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program in Plymouth.