Jack Hughes played 117 games in the NHL as a teenager over the course of two pandemic-shortened seasons, and he scored 18 goals with 34 assists. Not a star performance, by any means, but good for a teenager — especially since he showed lots of improvement in his second campaign.
We live in a world, though, where Connor McDavid played 89 games in the NHL as a teenager and scored 30 goals with 68 assists. And since Hughes was the No. 1 overall pick in the NHL draft in 2019, four years after McDavid was the top choice, well, there was already debate about Hughes’ “bust” status.
Hughes looked pretty good on Friday in his first game as a 20-year-old, scoring the overtime winner to lead the Devils past Chicago.
Fake out, hesitate, reverse, laser, game. And sure, why not, let’s chuck the stick into the crowd for good measure!
“I think it was a 2-on-1 for most of the rink, so I had a lot of options going through my mind during the skate — and Gravy (Ryan Graves) drove the net so I had the patience and kind of moved the goalie,” Hughes said later. “I had an empty net after that.”
Dougie Hamilton, making his debut with New Jersey after signing a seven year, $63 million contract in the offseason, scored just 17 seconds in to help the Devils jump out to a 3-1 lead before Hughes’ OT heroics were needed.
Yes, an overtime goal is just at 3-on-3. Yes, Chicago’s defense is bad. Yes, it’s just one game. It’s also one game that included another Hughes goal. Only 16 more to go until he has as many as he did in his teens.
There’s a reason you don’t give up on prospects before they’re of legal drinking age.