Here’s something hockey fans will hear early on at the 2019 NHL Draft: “…are pleased to select out of the U.S. National Team Development Program, Jack Hughes.”
We don’t know yet which team will utter it, but it’ll in all likelihood come from the team that wins the draft lottery.
Hughes, the top prospect eligible for the 2019 draft, is currently participating in the World Junior Summer Showcase in Kamloops, B.C, where the 17-year-old American centre spoke about his choice to keep developing with USA Hockey in his draft year opposed to attending the University of Michigan.
“I just felt like the NTDP was the best spot for my development,” Hughes said via Mike G. Morreale of NHL.com. “I love my teammates, my coaches, the resources and love being able to put on the USA jersey. I tell everyone no one trains as hard as us at the NTDP. We’re working out in-season, skating four times a week, and playing games on top of that.”
Hughes’s older brother, Quinn, who was selected seventh overall by the Vancouver Canucks in June, recently announced he’d be returning to Michigan for his sophomore season.
“I talked to him a bit before I made my decision to go back,” Quinn said. “Michigan worked for me, but that doesn’t mean it would ultimately work for him. If you’re a good enough player, no matter where you go, you’ll find your way.”
The younger Hughes is much better than “good enough” as he split this past season with the under-17 and under-18 teams in the USNTDP where he put up a combined 116 points in 60 games as a 16-year-old.
His point total was a new program record for a player his age, shattering the previous record of 82 set by Phil Kessel and later tied by Clayton Keller. He also fell just one point short of the all-time single-season record of 117 set by Austin Matthews who did it as a 17-year-old in 2015.
“I knew the NTDP was a great spot, and Michigan was a great spot as well,” Hughes added. “Quinn had really good success there and anytime I have a chance to play with Quinn it’s really appealing. I took that into consideration, but I think the NTDP was the best spot.”
The Hughes brothers are strong contenders to both represent the United States at the 2019 world juniors.
Sportsnet hockey analyst Sam Cosentino earlier this year said Hughes has “some Connor McDavid-type qualities to his game.”
If the current projection holds true, Hughes would be the eighth American selected first overall in the NHL Draft joining Brian Lawton (1983), Mike Modano (1988), Bryan Berard (1995), Rick DiPietro (2000), Erik Johnson (2006), Patrick Kane (2007) and Matthews (2016).