Jack Hughes was called a bust way too early


Jack Hughes has looked so much more confident and mature this season. Photo Credit: Bryan Del Fava

Being the first overall pick is tough. Not only do you have the weight of a franchise on your shoulders coming into the league right away, but the bar set by the likes of McDavid, Matthews, Crosby and others is so high that it adds even more pressure to these young players, which, if they’re not careful, can make them crumble. Unfortunately, Jack Hughes checked those boxes for the Devils last season, and, while he did struggle, it was way too early to call him a bust like some fans were calling him after ONE SEASON. I can't believe I have to say this, as most people know it's not true, but there are always the trolls on Twitter who constantly say so.


I'll admit it-- Hughes struggled immensely during his age-18 season and rookie season in the NHL. While the astronomical expectations of 48 in 45 like McDavid had or scoring four goals in his first NHL game like Auston Matthews were upon him being the first overall pick, one has to remember the rookie seasons of some other high draft picks that became great in the future. For example, Joe Thornton played 55 games in his rookie season and scored seven total points. He now has over 1,000 points in his career. Nathan MacKinnon was not a sure thing in the NHL until his age-22 season as well, having his highest point total as 63 points through his first four years before stringing together three consecutive 90-point seasons in the NHL. Hell, even his draft counterpart Kaapo Kakko struggled in his first season as well. Hughes scored seven goals and 15 assists in his first season, but one also has to take into account all the turmoil that happened in the Devils organization during 2019-20.


For starters, the Devils were abysmal last season in the early goings, which led to the firing of their head coach John Hynes. Hynes tried to galaxy brain every lineup move he made last season, playing Hughes on the wing (not his natural position) and, later in his tenure, even putting him on the third line with Miles Wood and Travis Zajac. Pairing with these players was not exactly great for Hughes' development. The Devils also fired general manager Ray Shero, which was even more change in the organization in his first season, firing the GM that drafted him.


A player Hughes played with early in the season was Taylor Hall, who was traded to Arizona last season. Hall and Hughes were awesome together for the short time, but that quickly faded as Hall became a distraction to the team. Hall was helpful to Hughes in his first season-- assisting on his first goal as well as teaching him about the league due to also being a first overall pick. Just like that, Hughes lost the GM that drafted him, the coach he first learned under, and an influential player in the span of months.


Hughes also suffered from some mental blocks and being unlucky last season as well. For starters, he often tried to make the perfect pass or didn't utilize his shot, which was to the detriment of him. A major example of him being unlucky was this play here-- he fed Hall an absolute beauty of a pass but Carter Hart snatched it out of the net somehow. Poor guy just couldn't catch a break, but you could see flashes of his potential all season. One place he excelled was on the power play, scoring four of seven goals on the power-play.


There's no question that Hughes was small last season, checking in at around 150 pounds, and was knocked around quite a bit. He has bulked up this offseason, reportedly adding 14 pounds of muscle, and, thus far this season, he has certainly looked the part. You can see the confidence in his game change as well this season.


Lindy Ruff has shown confidence in his young forward this season as well, playing Hughes an average of six minutes more than Hynes and Nasreddine did last season.


"I can play him against anybody," Ruff said. "I'm not worried about matchups."


The confidence from the coach and in Hughes' game in itself shows, as while his shot has not shown up yet, but his passing and skating are slick. He has picked up three assists, which was more than he had in the first two games of last season. He made a big turnover play that resulted in a Miles Wood goal this season as well. I have loved his game so far this season, and I can't wait to see how the rest of it turns out. Keep your eyes on Jack Hughes, ladies and gentlemen. The breakout is coming, and once the shot comes, it is over for the league.

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