Jack Hughes had a hot start to his 2021-22 NHL season; on opening night for the New Jersey Devils against the Chicago Blackhawks, he put up 2 goals, including the absolute beauty below that elicited one of the best reactions from Ken Daneyko that I’ve ever heard. Hughes started off the season on pace to put up 164 points, as we all knew he would this year, and continued that by adding an assists in the opening period of the second game of the season against the Seattle Kraken.
And then came the shoulder injury.
Hughes would be injured late in the first period of that game against Seattle, and would not return to action until November 30th. That day would be the same one where he would sign his eight year extension with the team; expectations were now sky high as Jack became the second highest paid player on the team behind Dougie Hamilton. Hughes would add a mere one point (a goal) to his season total over the next four games. Concerns started to smolder that the Devils had invested long-term in a good to great, but not elite player.
Then Jack Hughes started to do Jack Hughes things again. The point production began to slowly climb, as he readjusted to NHL games and their pace after having missed roughly five weeks of action. Fast forward to present day and Hughes sits at 17 goals (current career high), and 22 assists (also a current career high) for 39 points, which, you guessed it, is a current career high for him. More impressively, he’s done so in only 34 appearances this season, putting him in position to finish the season at a point per game or better scoring at only 20 going on 21.
While Jesper Bratt has been a focus this season due to breaking out and leading the team in scoring (while also currently being above a point per game), Hughes has been nothing short of the revelation that we Devils fans had hoped we were getting when we selected him in 2019. On a Devils broadcast in the past, they made mention of him possibly needing to enter this third season to breakout and become the player he projected to be. Well, so far he has done exactly that as the team’s second leading scorer, with many fewer games played than the players around him in the Devils’ top five point producers.
While the team’s record is still a mess, and the overall result on the ice is inconsistent to say the least, it doesn’t mean things are shrouded completely in darkness. the play of Jack Hughes (along with a handful of others) is something to be celebrated this season. Hughes became an All-Star for the first time based on his points per game production and the overall skill he has been displaying on a nightly basis on the ice. As a young player, he probably still has some facets of his game that he is actively working on to make even better as well. With him leading the way, and a cast of other young players who are coming into their own as well, the Devils will be back in the thick of things sooner rather than later, and in that case this post might have to become a yearly occurrence. The team just has to shore up those few areas that are still being exploited by other teams before we get there.
What are your thoughts on the play of Jack Hughes this season; did you think this would be the year he started putting up more points per game? Were you worried about the lack of production when he returned from injury? How optimistic are you about his point totals only growing as he continues his career? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!