Previous posts: Kaapo Kakko.
It is truly amazing that I can write these profiles and have them be about the top players available in the draft. The best I’ve been able to look at is the 10th overall. Now with the Rangers drafting 2nd overall, and the Devils not tipping their hand at if they are actually going to pass on Jack Hughes and take Kaapo Kakko, we get to look at both.
Hughes, the consensus #1 overall pick for most of the season, tore up the USNTDP this year with a line of 21-39-60 in just 24 games in exhibition for the U18 team, followed by 12-36-48 with the club in the USHL in just 24 games. The 17 year old won’t turn 18 until May, and he is another truly elite talent, like Kakko.
Hughes, a center, has elite level speed and vision to go with that elite skill set he possesses. He puts passes on the tape on the rush, and these passes are difficult to make at the speed he’s moving. He seems to be a step ahead of the opposition, both in terms of speed and mental capacity. It’s his hockey sense is what folks seems to love the most, as you add that to his first step and passing ability and it makes him a true playmaker. The combination of elite hockey sense and elite talent is what sets the best above the rest. He’s no McDavid, but he’s on the level just below.
From his stats, you can see he isn’t just a pure playmaker either. He uses his skating, edge work, and balance in conjunction with his hands – which keep up with the rest of his skills – to get to the net on a regular basis. His soft hands work well with his quick release and lethal wrist shot. He isn’t the biggest or strongest guy, but it doesn’t matter if you can’t catch him, which is his biggest strength. The 17 year old will grow some muscle, so the size and strength will be a non-factor in years to come.
Hughes, as you can imagine, excels in the transition game. He forces turnovers with those quick hands and turns the play to offensive quickly. In a transition based NHL game nowadays, that skill is invaluable.
Here is a highlight reel of Hughes, and you can see what I mean by nothing matters if you can’t catch him. He eludes defenders well while crashing the net. He is also adept at drawing defenders before dishing the puck at the last second to an open man. Offensively, he is the most talented player in the draft. He is the #1 overall pick for a reason.
Despite this, there is still a chance that the Devils take Kakko, who some pundits have as the top pick, and the Rangers get Hughes. This is not a bad thing by any means. No matter what, the Rangers are getting a franchise altering player. Whichever one you want, it’s just different flavor icing on the same cake.