A HUGHES DEAL
As astute readers of AATJ already know, Devils Assistant GM Dan Mackinnon recently sat down with Ryan Novozinksy of NJ.Com to discuss a triad of Devils prospects. In the interview, MacKinnon confirmed the plan for super prospect Luke Hughes. [NJ.COM $]
A not-so-big spoiler alert — Luke Hughes is coming to New Jersey.
While Luke may not be “the” Big Deal as there can only be one of those, signing Luke Hughes after his season in Michigan ends will certainly be “a” big deal — a giant deal, even. Shortly after the interview, Hughes the Younger celebrated the news the best way possible.
He put up a fourspot to cap off his first career NCAA hattrick:
I peek my head out from this bye-week to inform you #NJDevils prospect Luke Hughes scored his first career hat trick… and then he scored a fourth goal. pic.twitter.com/vVZg9Cn92l— Amanda Stein (@amandacstein) January 29, 2023
ELEVATING HIS GAME
As of Saturday night, Luke Hughes has eight goals and twenty-two assists in twenty-six games good for 1.15 Pts/g, which puts him second on his team only to the current consensus likely #2 overall pick in this year’s draft Adam Fantilli and second in the league for defenseman by one point. Dobber currently has Luke Hughes at 96 in their NHLe model, which is literally off the charts above that of a projected superstar. [Dobber] This is, as they say, a big deal.
As beat writer John Tondura highlighted in a recent article for the Michigan Daily, Hughes the Younger has been playing in all situations for Michigan: “[p]laying on the first defensive pairing, first power play, first penalty kill and as an extra attacker.” [Michigan Daily] All those responsibilities has routinely led Hughes to play monster minutes, sometimes as much as 28 minutes a night. As a result of all the extra ice, Coach Brandon Naurato Hughes says that Hughes has learned to “simplify his game.”
This is good news as the biggest concern for Devils fans (if there is any) after the World Juniors seemed to be how Hughes the Younger will hold up in the NHL on the defensive end. That Luke is already learning to make the simpler play is encouraging as he will need to continue to do that to be successful at the NHL level.
Per Devils Assistant GM Dan MacKinnon, the plan is clear:
[T]he plan is for him to turn pro, come to New Jersey and I think it will be a day-to-day, week-to-week thing from there. We’ll see how he can hit the ground running and how he fits in. — Dan MacKinnon to Ryan Novozinsky for NJ.Com.
One day down the road, Luke Hughes will be a superstar in the NHL, but like any young defender, he will need time to adjust to the speed and elite skill of the league — particularly on the defensive end. For his part, Hughes the Younger seems aware of this. Per the article by Ryan Novozinksy for NJ.Com, Hughes said he watches most Devils games to focus in on their playstyle especially in the D-Zone. Hopefully, the video sessions will help when Luke debuts in the red and black.
Regardless, Luke Hughes is a special talent and the confirmation of this news is a very big deal. I’ll end the spotlight with these words by Michigan head coach Brandon Naurato as tweeted by John Tondura:
Michigan coach Brandon Naurato on #njdevils prospect Luke Hughes:— John Tondora (@JohnTondora) January 26, 2023
“I think he can step into New Jersey tomorrow and help them.”
That would certainly be welcomed news for Devils fans.
Patrick Moynihan continues to struggle this season with only nine points in twenty-six games. These are disappointing numbers for the senior, who will be looking for a professional contract after his season ends. Moynihan is a good role player with a lot of those “intangibles” that many teams tend to covet, but one wonders if his lack off production will prevent him from making the jump.
On the other side of the coin, Samu Salminen has been red hot since last update upping his point totals from five to eleven and his pts/g from 0.45 to 0.63. After a visa issue and a brief adjustment period, the Finnish center has clearly found his game and has been promoted to centering UCONN’s top line.
In between the other two forwards is Artem Shlaine, who is, in the immortal words of Lou Lamoriello — status quo and keeping his break out season steady at a 0.85 pts/g pace.
Defense and Goaltending
For the Michigan trio, Seamus Casey has stalled a little bit dropping his production down to a 0.73 pts/g pace from a near pt/g pace earlier in the season. These are still excellent numbers for the freshman, who continues to develop well on both ends of the ice. Always seemingly behind the other two Devils prospects on Michigan’s blueline, Ethan Edwards only has eight points thus far this season and recently received a five minute major for an illegal check to the head that will likely be looked at further. Lastly, the spotlight of this week’s article, Luke Hughes has jumped over a pt/g with a four goal performance all while making ridiculous plays such as these:
FILTH from Luke Hughes#GoBlue pic.twitter.com/voZsbM4CEi— Michigan Hockey (@umichhockey) January 29, 2023
To round out the defensemen, all seems status quo with Victor Hurtig and Charlie Leddy. A converted forward, Hurtig seems to have struggled adjusting to the NCAA thus far. Lastly, Case McCarthy is quietly putting up a respectable season with 11 points in 25 games, which is not bad for a defensive defenseman. One wonders whether it is enough to earn him a contract when his season ends and his brother Gavin, who was recently ranked 39th in North American skaters by Central Scouting and is already committed to Boston University, follows in his Terrier footsteps.
Goaltender Cole Brady has not played since last update.
NCAA PLAYER OF THE MONTH
The aforementioned Luke Hughes has been absolutely on fire as of late. Stick tap.
AROUND THE POOL
- In the NJ.com article, Devils Assistant GM Dan MacKinnon also confirmed that Shakir Mukhamadullin will come to North America after his season ends and likely start in Utica. MacKinnon also suggested that the Devils will opt to wait another year or two before bringing over Arseni Gritsyuk, so don’t expect Big Shak to help his countryman pack just yet. [NJ.COM $]
- Petr Hauser remains red hot since earning a silver medal in the World Juniors.
Four-game point streak for RW Petr Hauser (NJD 5th/2022) thanks to this goal in Bannik Sokolov's 5-3 loss to Slavia Prague on Wednesday. Hauser's one of the top U20 scorers in the adult-age Chance Liga. Round 5's a gold mine for the Devils -- Sharangovich, Gritsyuk, Vilen as well pic.twitter.com/o9PfvSjWHt— Steve Kournianos (@TheDraftAnalyst) January 27, 2023
- Akira Schmid earned his first shutout of the season in a 1-0 Utica win over the Syracuse Crunch. [Daily Sentinel]
- Lastly, Zakhar Bardakov recently earned a promotion.
#NJDevils prospect Zakhar Bardakov top line today for SKA. #KHL pic.twitter.com/RdrpFLykEG— Hockey News Hub (@HockeyNewsHub) January 30, 2023
Astute readers may have realized that this was supposed to be the Utica Comets update week, but with the Luke Hughes news fresh, it seemed appropriate to switch weeks and highlight Hughes again. Next week the update will focus on the Utica Comets with the belated spotlight on Graeme Clarke.
Tell us what you think? How big a deal is this for the Devils? Let us know in the comments below.