In what was a very down year for the entire New Jersey Devils organization, general manager Ray Shero was impeccable as well as his timing like a Swiss Watch precisely.
After a 72 point season concluded, Devils general manager Ray Shero and DOA Scout Paul Castron are up to their biggest and most pivotal draft ever. This pick of Jack Hughes could be the biggest franchise forward they’ve selected since Patrik Eliaś back in 1994. However, he could be the first centre in franchise history if or when selected by Ray and New Jersey.
If this was a mystery story, it would be Ray Shero’s ties to the US National Development Team and John Hynes being a former USNTDP coach and the current assistant coach on Team USA. Another connection is Cory Schneider who is one of the goaltenders for Team USA, a familiar face around Jack Hughes who can provide more intel to Hynes and his coaching staff.
When I see Jack Hughes play whether it’s on YouTube or on NBCSN, I see Jack Hughes is Fast like Taylor Hall, smart like Patrick Kane, Stick-handles like a young Patrick Kane and has a similar agility to Connor McDavid. Remember, this kid does have a high upside despite being near the same height and weight of Patrick Kane from when Kane was drafted by the Blackhawks many moons ago. But Hughes is a slick player, skater and thinker like Johnny Gaudreau who is a teammate of his on Team USA.
The one part of Hughes’ game that most people don’t quite drool over is that he is able to skate back into the defensive zone to cover a breakaway while breaking up plays. Now, if I am coach Hynes, I am very fortunate to understand a young and upcoming stud could end up in your lap come draft day in Vancouver. I’m sure that with Ray Shero and the upper brasses connection to Hughes’ and the USNTDP, Ray can have a modern day one-two punch, similar to what he had with Pittsburgh when he inherited Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby.
Now, in this day of modern hockey, it’s very hard to find a well established centreman, not only to win in the face-off circle but also a centre to provide leadership in scoring while creating a strong defensive core every other game he draws into the lineup for. We saw evidence of this watching how great Nico Hischier did in his rookie season with Taylor Hall. Also, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Hughes eased in similarly to the way Nico did in his rookie season.
Coach Hynes has done a really good job managing young players into the starting formation. Another thing is Jack will have Nico Hischier, Taylor Hall and Jesper Bratt, all of whom are left-handed shooters, speedy, agile, smart and know how to attack as well. On the other hand, New Jersey is also exceptional on the defensive aspect of the game.
If Shero can add Jeff Skinner and possibly acquire Kasperi Kapanen and maybe add a veteran defender, this will make Taylor Hall sign a possible eight-year extension that will possibly make the person behind the Devils home goal horn blast Howl by Gaslight Anthem more often than ever.