The New Jersey Devils kept the fourth overall pick and did what many expected. They drafted United States National Team Development Program defenseman Luke Hughes. They picked the younger brother of budding star defenseman, Quinn, and the budding star center, fellow New Jersey Devil, and The Big Deal, Jack. The New Jersey Devils organization now has two-thirds of the Hughes brothers.
General Manager Tom Fitzgerald announced the pick at the Devils’ Draft Party at the Rock. While the mic cut out, the crowd was elated when they heard “United Stated Developmental...” The ESPN2 broadcast cut to the live reaction at the Hughes’ household and Jack bear-hugged his brother and seemed more excited than even Luke was at the pick. I would like to think a lot of Devils are happy that Jack is happy and that the Devils selected a defenseman.
They should be. Luke Hughes is among the best defensemen in this entire draft class. Brian profiled him as our first prospect profile for this year. I highly suggest reading it for more details about the player. Here is a quick summary of why you should be excited: While an injury prevented him from playing at the World Under-18 Championships, his skating alone has garnered tons of praise and expectations of a bright future as a pro hockey player. His offensive skillset was shown off in myriads of USNTDP performances during 2021-22. Not only did he average well over a half-point per game in his USNTDP seasons, he has been very good at moving the puck in transition and creating plays. And there is plenty of reason to think he could get even better as Luke Hughes, who was born on September 9, 2003, is also one of the youngest players in this whole draft. Hughes is committed to Michigan, which has already proven to be a great program for developing NHL players. After all, three Wolverines were picked at first, second, and fifth overall tonight and Quinn can speak to the Michigan experience among a larger group of players.
(Aside: If you’d like more profiles on Hughes, Madeline Campbell wrote this one at Broad Street Hockey, Rachel Bules wrote this one at The Cannon, and Thomas P. Williams wrote this one at Hockey Wilderness.)
Additionally, this selection addresses a need within the Devils’ prospect pool. As much as Devils fans accurately lamented the defense from last season, no player picked this year will come in to “fix the defense.” However, the Devils have been short on offensive-minded defensemen prospect. The pool has Reilly Smith, maybe Ethan Edwards, and that was pretty much it. Luke Hughes is a prime prospect to fit the organizational need and someone who could make a real impact after a couple of seasons in the Big 10. The Ty Smith plan may be a good roadmap for Hughes. As we saw with Smith this past season, it can be a successful one.
Admittedly, one could say this was one of the safer picks in a 2021 NHL Entry Draft where there is a lot of different directions it could go in. Luke Hughes to the team that picked his brother Jack first overall in 2019 made for a good story. Luke Hughes to a team with current and future needs at defense made sense. Luke Hughes being one of the best prospects at his position and overall in the class (e.g. Will Scouch’s tier list - he’s the only defenseman in the top one) being picked fourth overall made even more sense. Out of 23 mock drafts that have since been blown up due to the big deals made within 48 hours of the NHL Draft, 20 of them had the Devils taking a defenseman and 13 of them had the Hughes as the pick. I am happy to say that Tom Fitzgerald did not overthink it. He did not get lured away by Simon Edvinsson’s size or some other player’s trait. He did not get a deal big enough to warrant moving the pick. Safe and expected as it may seem, it is a very good pick in my view.
I welcome Luke Hughes to the Devils organization and I wish him the best as he prepares for moving onto college hockey in the Fall. Now that you know that I am a fan of the pick, I want to know your reactions. What do you think of the pick? Please leave your answers in the comments. Please also vote in our flash poll - no comment needed - that will close tomorrow night at midnight for our annual community reaction to the Devils’ draft picks. Thank you for reading.
The Devils drafted Luke Hughes at 4th Overall. What do you think of the pick?
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I love it!
I like the pick.
I don’t know / I’m in the middle.
I don’t like the pick.
I hate it!