Bet The Over On This Rookie Phenom's Point Total

The No. 1 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft should make an immediate impact for the Devils

The New Jersey Devils won the 2019 NHL Draft Lottery and their prize was Jack Hughes, a small but crafty American center whom Head Coach John Hynes already has strongly suggested will be the team’s second-line center when the 2019-20 season begins in October. 

The Devils signed Hughes to a three-year, entry-level contract this summer during the team’s annual prospect development camp, where he wowed team executives, teammates, media members and fans with his elite skills and flashy, yet wholesome, smile. 

DraftKings Sportsbook has set Hughes’ point production at 61.5 for his rookie season, and his goal total at 21.5. Barring injury, Hughes will eclipse both numbers (-132 for points and -114 for goals) with room to spare.   

“He's a student of the game, respectful and confident,” New Jersey Senior Director of Player Personnel Dan MacKinnon told NHL.com. “His ability to execute in small space, which is so much a part of how offenses generate in today's NHL, is phenomenal. I just think he's going to be able to have success because he's able to do that … It's not that he needs to skate away from players to create his offense, which some guys have to do to get separation, but he's able to execute when there's really not much room at all. It's going to be interesting to see how that translates to the NHL.”  

Hughes has many calling cards. Sure, he’s only 5-foot-10 and 179 pounds, but he’s a very fast and agile skater, he has soft hands and an effective shot, and his hockey sense is through the roof. He also has a knack for avoiding contact with other, bigger players, which will serve the 18-year-old well as he competes against men instead of other boys as a pro. 

Hughes set a United States National Team Development Program record by producing 228 career points over two seasons. That’s greater point production than other program stars such as Auston Matthews, Jack Eichel, and Patrick Kane. On top of that, Hughes is expected to become the first player to jump from the USNTDP into the NHL.

“I’m focused and ready to play in the NHL,” Hughes told NHL.com. “It’s not really something I think about because it’s kind of an expectation for me.”

While New Jersey and its fan base are expecting Hughes to make an immediate impact, unlike other top draft picks there is no pressure on him to be the savior of the franchise after it’s humbling 72-point effort in 2018-19. The Devils have wisely made other acquisitions this off-season, such as adding media darling P.K. Subban to the roster, to take some load away from Hughes.

Plus, the Devils still have recent League MVP Taylor Hall in the mix and recent No. 1 draft pick Nico Hischier as the top center. It’s an ideal situation in which a rookie with Hughes’ potential can flourish.  

“The best thing is that everyone realizes the best is yet to come,” NHL Central Scouting director Dan Marr told USA TODAY Sports about Hughes. “He has the skill and the smarts to go out there and generate offense.”   

John Wroblewski, who coached Hughes at the USNDTP, agrees.

“I’m telling you this: He’s going to be a superstar as a center-ice man in that league,” Wroblewski told the New York Post. “It’s going to break a mold, and there is going to be a generation of kids that want to be Jack Hughes.”   

Let’s examine some other top draft picks and what they produced in their first NHL seasons.

Kane, whom Hughes credits as his idol, notched 72 points (21 goals and 51 assists) in 82 games as a freshman in 2007-08 after Chicago selected him first overall at the 2007 NHL Draft. Hall, whom Edmonton scooped up with the first draft pick in 2010, produced 42 points (22 goals and 20 assists) in 65 games in his first season. And Hischier, whom New Jersey claimed with the first pick in 2017, chipped in 52 points (20 goals and 32 assists) in 82 games as a rookie in 2017-18.

Look for Hughes to skate with winger Wayne Simmonds, at least to start the 2019-20 season. New Jersey wisely signed the gritty veteran as an unrestricted free agent this off-season and the hard working, 30-year-old winger will complement Hughes well.  And protect him, too, if you will.

Hughes is eager to begin his pro career and prove he’s worth all of the media attention he’s received since the Draft. He’s focused on training and reporting to camp a little bigger than he was at New Jersey’s prospect camp.

“I think for me, it's about getting bigger and stronger and enhancing my skills,” Hughes told reporters. “Once I get here for training camp, I'll learn a lot more. I'll maybe put on two or three more pounds but nothing crazy. I don't want to get too big where I can't move out there, so I'll add a little bit of muscle. I think that'll be good for me.”

Read why the Devils will be a legitimate Stanley Cup sleeper here.  

Note: All statistics above were found on Hockey-Reference.com. The advice above represents the writer's personal view and does not reflect or represent BetQL's stance or interest in any way.