Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning: Get Excited For Maxim Cajkovic

The Tampa Bay Lightning selected Maxim Cajkovic, with the 89th overall selection in the 2019 National Hockey League Entry Draft

 

I had actually selected Cajkovic (pronounced Chi-Ko-Vich, not Catch-Ko-Vich as I initially thought) when I was the Lightning GM in the Puck77 Mock Draft from a little while ago, and I really liked my selection then, so you can probably guess how I feel now. I love this pick, and I genuinely think he could be a steal in the future.

 

Basics

The Bratislava, Slovakia native stands at 5’11, 185 pounds, and played for the St John Sea Dogs in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL).

For those that don’t follow the QMJHL, the Sea Dogs finished with a 13-49-2-4 record this season. That is really, really bad. Regardless, the Slovakian right winger scored 22 goals and added 24 more assists for 46 points in 60 games played. While those numbers are unspectacular, he played for a team that finished second-to-last, so you can do the math and expect no one to put up a ton of points.

The best place to look for his production was when he played for the Slovakian U18 team in the World Junior Championships and scored three goals and four assists for seven points in seven games. That’s a point-per-game pace, against other draftees including Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko. But let’s breakdown his game, using ProspectShifts.com, where we can watch his film.

 

Scouting Report

I’m sorry, I have to say it: Cajkovic is a better skater than the Lightning’s first round pick, Nolan Foote. He’s quick, able to dart in and out, with fantastic edgework. He can make tight turns and stop on a dime in order to stick with the play wherever it goes. However, he does get knocked off the puck, and often times down to the ice, fairly easy, and needs to work on his balance.

Cajkovic has an outstanding motor, too. He’s constantly moving, trying to get open for a teammate when he doesn’t have the puck. That makes it hard for defenders to keep track of and contain him. He often finds himself getting in the middle of board battles, as he is a feisty player, and isn’t afraid of a good scrum. When he does have a shot, he’s always looking for a spot to unleash his wrist shot. His shot is a bullet, but does lack accuracy at times.

He has great vision too, with very underrated passing ability, but he does force a lot of passes into dense areas, and the puck seemingly never gets from point A to B, and leads to turnovers. He played on the powerplay with St John, working the half-wall and point areas. That’s where he displayed his movements without the puck the most, and showed off his underrated playmaking abilities. On the forecheck is where he displays his feisty game the most. He lays the body whenever he can, playing an uber-aggressive game. But this is a shady area for him.

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He plays with a ton of emotion, which can be a positive, but this emotion does lead to dirty hits and penalties. For example, in one of the games I watched, he was shoved hard to the ice as he turned and sent the puck in deep. He then got up and skated full speed to the corner where the puck went, and boarded the guy that hit him. One of the dirtiest hits I’ve seen, in a dangerous area, at a high speed. He can also be seen getting in the faces of opponents after the whistle. This is an area of his game that he needs to tone down, a lot.

Regardless, his forechecking is exceptional and displays his high motor. He also backchecks hard, showing his full compete level. In the defensive zone, he is very rarely caught puck watching or puck chasing. He knows where to be at all times, showing good defensive awareness. His feet are always moving in the defensive end as well, staying with his man at all times. He is quick to transition up ice as well, but never “cheats” by leaving the zone early.

 

Future Role

Cajkovic plays a very well-rounded, feisty game. I can see him as a potential top-six winger, with power play and penalty kill time, but more than likely a middle-six winger. He already has good skating abilities, that could become great over time. He has good awareness in all three zones, that he could build on to be great. He has good passing, but lacks consistency, which if he fixes, could pair lethally with his already really good shot. Fantastic third round selection, in my opinion.

 

All stats via eliteprospects

Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals

 

Puck77 Interview: Steve Kournianos of TheDraftAnalyst.com

Yesterday, I had the privilege to interview Steve Kournianos (@TheDraftAnalyst). Kournianos is an NHL Draft Analyst for TheDraftAnalyst.com and he contributes for Sporting News NHL.

Kournianos has posted a ton of draft related content on his site including Rankings, Prospect Profiles and Mock Drafts. You should check out his content as you prepare to sit down to watch the draft this weekend.

In my interview with Kournianos, we touched on several different draft prospects who are eligible in the NHL Draft and some prospects who are eligible for the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. So, let’s take a look at what he had to say. 

Interview

Josh: The USNTDP has many top prospects including Cole Caufield, Alex Turcotte and Jack Hughes. But, who are some draft prospects from the USNTDP who could be steals in the later rounds?  

Steve: I really like Patrick Moynihan, Owen Lindmark and Judd Caulfield. All did really well when given a chance in the top six. Moynihan can fly and wire it off the rush; Lindmark has a nonstop motor and is great off the cycle; Caulfield is a big-bodied two-way type with soft hands and underrated creativity. I also see defensemen Domenick Fensore and Marshall Warren being able to translate their speed, hands and playmaking into top-pairing roles when after two or three years in college.

Josh: While Jack Hughes is looking like the number one selection, the race between Kaapo Kakko and Hughes has gotten much tighter. What are some of the concerns that analysts have with Hughes?

Steve: I don’t know any notable analysts who have concerns. Only fans. I for one have zero concerns about Hughes.

Josh: Alex Newhook is sky-rocketing up draft rankings. Is there a chance that we could see Newhook be drafted before Trevor Zegras and Dylan Cozens?

Steve: Slim. It’s recency bias from the U18 words. Zegras or Cozens would have put up 150-point seasons in the BCHL.

Josh: In addition, do you believe that with Newhook playing in the BCHL, that it had a negative impact on his rankings earlier on this year?

Steve: My issue with Newhook had more to do with his frustration on the bench and his inconsistency fighting through tougher matchups. I don’t think league quality had anything to do with his slipping. Cale Makar and Tyson Jost were high picks from Canadian Jr. “A” because they were consistently dominant without any real concerns.

Josh: What do you think of Moritz Seider and what should NHL fans expect down the road with Seider? 

Steve: Seider is a hot topic and deservedly so. He is too good for his age group and held his own against adults. His hockey smarts and positioning impress me more than his size and mobility, which is what many are focusing in. I see a future No. 2 or No. 3 who eats up minutes and plays in all situations.

Josh: Last year, fans saw Joe Veleno fall and fall. Who do you believe might fall this year and why?

Steve: I think one of the WHL centers will drop. Dach, Cozens or Krebs. My money is on Krebs because of the Achilles tear coupled with the rise of Caufield, Seider, Knight and several others.

Josh: Alexis LaFrenière is projected to be the number one overall selection in the 2020 NHL Draft. If you had to choose an NHLer (current or former) as a comparable, who would you select and why?

Steve: Lafrenière is a mix between John Tavares and Patrick Kane — a well-balanced, strong and brilliant decision maker like Tavares and finesse, elite puck control and hands like Kane. He’ll be among the NHL scoring leaders every year.

Josh: Aside from LaFrenière, who do you believe that fans should pay special attention to next season as they could be taken early on in the draft?

Steve: So many to list by I’m already partial to Russian winger Vasili Ponomaryov, the Czech kids — Jan Mysak, Adam Raska and Jaromir Pytlik. Also Anton Lundell from Finland, Dylan Holloway from Canada and a quintet of Minnesota high schoolers in Blake Biondi, Jake Boltmann, Carsen Richels, Cole Hansen and Jack Smith.

Thank You

Thank you Steve for taking the time to answer my questions. I look forward to interviewing you again in the future.

player profiles from hockey-reference.com

Puck77

NHL Mock Draft Part Four: Picks 16-20

Part Four of my mock National Hockey League entry draft will look at picks 16-20. For a quick refresher, click here for part 1, here for part 2, and here for part 3.

16th Overall Pick: Colorado Avalanche select Alex Newhook, Center, Victoria Grizzlies, BCHL

The 5’11, 190 lbs. center from St. John’s, Newfoundland, has been ranked inside the top 20 by every trustworthy source, and then some. His average rank is 15.2, meaning he is likely to go inside the first 15 picks on draft day.

He is one of the best skaters in this draft, easily in the top five in that respect, with blazing speed, an explosive first step, and fine edgework. He also has good balance. He has the puck handling abilities to make a move past a defender at top speed as well. He also holds his ground in board battles, and in front of the net. He pairs his great vision and passing skills to hit an open teammate with a pass for a scoring chance.

But, he isn’t just a playmaker. He has a great shot, and a one timer that will beat any goalie. He’s also good on the defensive end, reading plays quickly enough to break them up, and transition down the ice. He can kill penalties, at his current level, which shows you his capabilities on the defensive end of the ice.

However, he is playing in the British Columbia Hockey League. If you put any of the prior selections in the BCHL, they too could dominate the way Newhook did (38 goals, 64 assists for 102 points in 53 games). The best way to evaluate him is his play at the international level, when he played for Team Canada at the U18 World Junior Championships, where he scored five goals and five assists (10 points) in seven games. Those are solid numbers, and certainly promising, but the BCHL aspect still makes his accomplishments in league play inflated.

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That being said, next year he is moving up to the NCAA, where he has committed to Boston College. The NCAA is a lot tougher than the BCHL, and will truly test how good Newhook really is, and if he deserved to go higher… or not.

Future Role: If he shines in the NCAA, he has the potential to be a 2nd line center behind Alex Turcotte (if the Avs select him at four, like I had them doing) or Nathan MacKinnon (depends if he gets traded/moves to wing for Turcotte to play centre).

17th Overall Pick: Vegas Golden Knights select Bobby Brink, Right Wing, Sioux City Musketeers, USHL

Brink is an undersized winger (5’10, 163 lbs.), but that doesn’t matter much anymore in today’s game. He’s also one of the most intriguing, and unpredictable selections. Some experts have him as the 15th ranked player, while others have him as late as 37, with his average being 25.8.

Brink has good balance, to go with good agility and great acceleration. However, he does not have a very good top speed, which sets his skating back a bit. He doesn’t fare very well in board battles or net-front battles, and the culprit is his small stature. But, like Newhook is a top five skater in the draft, Brink is a top five shooter. His wrist shot is deadly. While his shooting is superb, it’s usually how he gets to those areas to release his shot that stands out.

He has good stickhandling ability to dangle his way past defenders, and vision to spot open areas to exploit. The vision he uses to exploit open areas in the offensive zone that I touched on earlier, he also uses when setting up teammates for scoring chances. He plays strong defensively as well. He sinks low in the zone to help the centers and defensemen. He has strong positioning, intercepting passes to his man at the point. Once he gets those turnovers, he is quick to turn up ice and attack offensively.

But, again like Newhook, he played against lesser competition. He only played five games with the USNTDP team (with Jack Hughes and co.), putting up three goals and three assists (six points). That isn’t bad at all, but he only played five games, remember? Instead of playing up with the rest of the top US prospects, he played in the United States Hockey League, ultimately one step below the USNTDP. There, he played 43 games, with 35 goals and 33 assists (68 points). He will look to really add to his name when he plays NCAA hockey with the University of Denver, where he is committed to play next season. That will be a true test for Brink, and one that a lot of people will keep their eyes on.

Future Role: Safer pick than Newhook, but Newhook arguably has a higher floor, meaning he will take a bit longer to develop. But predictions for his future reside on next seasons performance. If all goes right, he could pan out as a solid top six winger, playing in all situations.

18th Overall Pick: Dallas Stars select Ville Heinola, Left-Handed Defenseman, Lukko, Liiga

Heinola is currently 18 years old, but he spent his age 17 season playing against grown men in Liiga. The Honkajoki, Finland native has a below average frame at 5’11, 181 lbs.

Heinola isn’t a fast skater, with good acceleration, but what sets him apart is his edgework, that allows him to change direction quickly and effectively. His balance isn’t where it needs to be, as he is easily pushed around in front of the net and in corners, but over time, as he bulks up, he will get better there.

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Offensively, he possesses a high hockey IQ. He has great vision, which allows him to control and filter the pace of play, either at 5 on 5 or on the powerplay. He does get creative with some plays, but he does often find himself getting too creative, and forcing passes into traffic. But with his creativity, he holds solid stickhandling abilities, and can beat attacking wingers with a quick move at the point.

His great ability of pivoting and edgework allow him to walk across the blue line, and his vision and patience allows the play to unfold as he walks the line. Both his wrist shot and slapshot are solid, and low to the ice, allowing for deflections or rebounds. He has a tendency to sneak down from the point if he has space, or to just get to an open area for a pass, and get shots in tight to the goalie.

On defense, his high IQ stays with him, and again he reads the play well. He does a good job breaking up passes, and is a very effective pokechecker. He also tends to shy away from the physicality of the game, trying to stick with his pokechecking rather than lay a hit on someone, but as he bulks up, that could change.

Heinola was able to post two goals and 12 assists (14 points) in 34 games against men in Finland, which is very impressive at his age. He played in a few international tournaments as well for Finland, which included the U18 World Junior Championship, the U20 World Junior Championship and the Hlinka Gretzky Cup (U18). In the U18 WJC, he played five games with one goal and three assists (four points). In the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, he put up two assists in four games. Then, finally, in the U20 WJC, he recorded a goal and an assist in five games.

While he looked sharp in Liiga, his offensive production on international stages left something to be desired. He has even been claimed as a boom or bust pick, with his sometimes risky offensive zone play, and inconsistent international play. However, I don’t see him as a boom or bust pick. His skill-set offensively is better than some defensemen picked higher, and his defensive game is solid. His IQ is incredibly advanced for his age, and while he may not be a burner of a skater, his pivots allow him to go from defense to offense, and vice versa, quickly, and allows him to keep up to speed with the game.

Future Role: Top four defenseman, with top powerplay minutes. If his physical game ever develops, and he bulks up, he could see some penalty killing minutes as well.

19th Overall Pick: Ottawa Senators select Spencer Knight, Goaltender, USNTDP

The 6’3, 198 lbs. native of Darien, Connecticut has built up a good enough profile to be the top ranked netminder in the draft, ahead of Russian phenom, Pyotr Kochetkov. He has been ranked as early as 19th and as late as 32nd, while his average ranking sits at 27.7.

He already has the size that NHL teams look for in a goaltender, with room still to grow. He is aggressive, taking away angles, and coming out to the top of his crease. One thing that many young goalies face when heading into the draft the most is their rebound control, but that isn’t the case for Knight. That is the biggest facet of his game that separates him from every other goalie in this class.

It’s difficult to score on him low, as he moves very well laterally, and with power. He has great vision, rarely losing sight of where the puck is, and reads where it could go next rather well. His glove hand is quick, and spectacular, while the smaller details of his game are extremely well developed at a technical scale. He does the little things right, essentially, all the time. He is good with the puck too, with the ability to start the breakout, similar to Jordan Binnington in this past NHL postseason.

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He seemingly bounces back after every goal against, very rarely letting it affect him. One negative to his game, as pointed out by Ben Kerr at LastWordOnHockey, is he tends to lose focus when he isn’t being pressured with shots, and that could lead to problems down the road if not fixed.

He is committed to play for Boston College of the NCAA, after putting up a 2.36 Goals against average and a .913 save percentage with the USNTDP, in 33 games. In the U18 WJC, he put up a 1.51 GAA and .936 SV% in six games.

Future Role: Goalies take the longest to pan out and are nearly impossible to project. However, I will leave you with this: he has been compared stylistically to Carey Price, and is well ahead of all the other netminders in this class. It is nearly safe to say he will be an NHL goalie. His ceiling is limitless, however, so he will be fun to watch in his college years.

20th Overall Pick: New York Rangers select Ryan Suzuki, Center, Barrie Colts, OHL

The 6’0, 172 lbs. Canadian born center Suzuki is the brother to Montreal Canadiens prospect Nick Suzuki. Coming out of London, Ontario, Ryan has been ranked as early as 12th and as late as 26th, with his average ranking at 20.2.

He is a speedy skater, with great acceleration, allowing him to beat defenders with just his feet. He is able to speed up and slow down smoothly, which allows him to play with defenders heads, and beat them in a multitude of ways. However, he is easily knocked off the puck, and needs to get stronger to be better equipped for the NHL level.

He is an excellent passer, able to get pucks through traffic, and has the IQ to know when, and where, to send the puck to a teammate for a scoring chance. He is lethal on the powerplay with that skill alone. Add to it his stickhandling, and he creates room for himself to open up his options and rip up a defense. He has an accurate shot, but needs to gain more strength for better power behind those shots. He is great on the forecheck, and he could get even better with, you guessed it, more strength.

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He reads the play well defensively, but struggles in that area nonetheless. He’s good at breaking up passes, and he is almost always in the right position. He is quick to start the transition towards offense, and successful at it too. With all that said, he was able to produce 25 goals and 50 assists (75 points) in 65 games in the OHL. Internationally, he played for team Canada at the U18 WJC (one assist in five games) and at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup (one goal, seven assists in five games). His lackluster U18 WJC  performance is concerning, but isn’t a major red flag.

Future Role: Top six center, playing in all situations, so long as he gets considerably stronger. With strength, his defensive capabilities are magnified, and he can win more battles on the forecheck, and makes him more of a 1st liner than a 2nd liner.

All stats via Eliteprospects

Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals

Puck 77 NHL Draft Scouting Reports

We’ve compiled all of the scouting reports done by the various members of the Puck77 team for the NHL Draft here in one easy location so you can jump right to the player you want!

Our Top-12

1. 🇺🇸 Jack Hughes, C, USNTDP: Deep Dive Scouting Report on Jack Hughes by Tony Ferrari

2. 🇫🇮 Kaapo Kakko, RW, TPS (Liiga): Deep Dive Scouting Report of Kaapo Kakko by Tony Ferrari

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3. 🇺🇸 Alex Turcotte, C, USNTDP: Deep Dive Scouting Report on Alex Turcotte by Tony Ferrari

4. 🇨🇦 Bowen Byram, LHD, Vancouver Giants (WHL): Deep Dive Scouting Report on Bowen Byram by Tony Ferrari

5. 🇺🇸 Trevor Zegras, C/LW, USNTDP: Deep Dive Scouting Report on Trevor Zegras by Tony Ferrari

6. 🇨🇦 Dylan Cozens, C, Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL): Deep Dive Scouting Report on Dylan Cozens by Tony Ferrari

7. 🇺🇸 Cole Caufield, LW, USNTDP: Deep Dive Scouting Report on Cole Caufield by Tony Ferrari

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8. 🇨🇦 Kirby Dach, C, Saskatoon Blades (WHL): Deep Dive Scouting Report on Kirby Dach by Tony Ferrari

9. 🇨🇦 Alex Newhook, C, Vancouver Grizzlies (BCHL): Deep Dive Scouting Report on Alex Newhook by Tony Ferrari

10. 🇨🇦 Peyton Krebs, C, Kootenay/Winnipeg Ice (WHL): Deep Dive Scouting Report on Peyton Krebs by Tony Ferrari

11. 🇺🇸 Matthew Boldy, RW, USNTDP: Deep Dive Scouting Report on Matthew Boldy by Tony Ferrari

12. 🇷🇺 Vasili Podkolzin, RW, SKA St. Petersburg (KHL): Deep Dive Scouting Report on Vasili Podkolzin by Tony Ferrari

Other Intriguing Prospects

2019 NHL Draft: What makes Philip Tomasino such an intriguing prospect? by Spencer Loane

2019 NHL Draft Deep Dive: Arthur Kaliyev by Spencer Teixeira

NHL Draft Profile: Nolan Foote by Spencer Teixeira

Come back for more profiles as they are updated and added! Thanks for stopping by!

NHL Draft Profile Jack Hughes

The likely top overall pick in this years NHL draft doesn’t have as tight a grip on the top selection as he did at the start of the season. While Kappo Kakko has closed on Hughes position, the American center has solidified his spot as the next great player to come out of the US National Team Development Program. 

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Name: Jack Hughes

Date of Birth: May 14th, 2001

Nationality (Place of Birth): American (Orlando, FL, USA)

Hieght: 5’10”

Weight: 170lbs

Shoots: Left

Position: Center

Rankings

Ranked #1 by TSN/McKenzie

Scouting Report

The above spider graph, courtesy of Kyle Pereira of Puck77, displays the available data from Will Scouch. As shown, Jack Hughes was a dominant force in many ways. He was exceptional at driving play at 5-on-5 and he is a powerplay wizard. Finishing no worse than third among the 11 prospects on the graph, Hughes clearly stands out. As a player who is able to attack the game in a variety of ways, Hughes will immediately step into and NHL locker room and be a contributor right away. 

At just 5’10” you would prefer Hughes to have more size but the way he plays the game, it’s not an issue. The diminutive center isn’t a perimeter player as many would assume due to his size, rather he lives in the middle of the ice. Hughes ability to get to the middle of the ice unabated is impressive. In the video below, Hughes begins the play by picking the puck up behind the net and then picks up some speed with the puck. At that point he makes an excellent breakout pass and then uses his speed to accelerate through the neutral zone before receiving a return pass. Hughes makes a few cuts and changes direction, cutting to the net. A pass back against the flow of direction which results in a goal. 

Tweet courtesy of @StarsStripesHKY

Hughes skating ability is otherworldly. His skating will be elite in the NHL already and he doesn’t have just straight line speed. His edge work is phenomenal as he is able to cut in either direction on a dime. He skates like a speedy NFL running back in the sense that he can make a move in any direction without notice. This skill is key in making Hughes transition game elite entering the NHL. His ability to create space with subtle changes in his skating whether it be changing direction or changing speeds is unmatched in this draft class.

With an electric offence game, Hughes has taken over games in a scorer and a playmaker role. His calling card is the ability to make the ice feel spacious for his teammates while controlling the puck and pushing the ice of play. His tape-to-rape passing ability is a thing of beauty. Whether backhand or forehand, the American is an extremely high-end passer who can break a game open by drawing defenders to him before threading a pass through traffic onto the stick of his teammates. Below you can see that Hughes displays excellent vision. After entering the offensive zone he drops a pass to the oncoming Cam York and then continues to the slot. Receiving the return pass from York, Hughes makes no mistake by putting the puck in the back of the net.

Tweet courtesy of @TSN_Sports

Defensively Hughes has all the tools to compete and excel in his own end. He may not be overly physical and won’t muscle an opponent off of the puck but he didn’t refrain from battling in the corners. More adept at using his good stick to pull the puck out of a scrum. His positioning in the defensive zone is good and he is skilled at recognizing a play and getting in the passing lanes braking up plays before they become dangerous.

Preseason Outlook

Coming into the 2018-19 season, Jack Hughes was touted as the clear number one prospect for this draft. His star had been on the rise for years. His play for the USNTDP team as well as both the U17 squads and U18 squads were absolutely outstanding. He was a force to be reckoned with regardless if he was playing with his age group or a year ahead.

Coming off of a season in which he was the highest scoring U17 player in USNDTP history, expectations started extremely high for the speedy center. Last season Hughes split time between the Under-17 and Under 18-teams. Excelling at both levels, Hughes put up 68 points in 37 games with Under 18s and 48 points in 24 games with the Under 17s. Capturing a gold medal at the U17 World Hockey Challenge and a silver medal at the IIHF Under-18 World Championship. To say he had a dominant year would be an understatement.

Draft Year with USNTDP

Jack Hughes has dominated this year. He draft season almost couldn’t have gone better. His proficiency has been displayed at every level and every event he’s played in this year. A dominant performance with the USNTDP where he put up 112 points (34 G/74 A) in just 50 games was the prime destination to see him play. The skilled center was a force in every game he played. His skill was evident at all times, with and without the puck.

Video courtesy of Hockey Prospect Center Youtube channel

With 74 assists, he proved that his playmaking ability is exceptional beyond belief. He was a constant threat to put the puck on the tape of a player in position to score. Passing from behind the net, across the ice or into the slot from the half wall, Hughes can make any pass. He was unwavering in his ability to make the smart and efficient pass from the defensive zone and then opening himself up for a return pass. An underrated part in Hughes game, much like many superstars, is the small passes that he makes to alleviate pressure from opposing players. This skill is both underrated and integral to a players capacity to play in all three zones.

His game is consistently rose to an even higher level at international tournaments. Whether it was his record setting performance in the U18 World Championships in April or the point-per-game pace he established at the World Juniors (U20) Championships just after Christmas, Hughes has proven to be a difference maker on every occasion.

Video courtesy of Puck Prodigy Youtube channel

U18’s and IIHF World Championships

The captain of an absolutely stacked American U18 team, Hughes shone like the star he is. The team ran into a hot goalie in Russia’s Yaroslav Askarov, a 2020 draft eligible goalie, in the semi-finals led to a disappointing bronze medal finish. Although the teams goals and expectation of a gold medal were not met, Hughes had an outstanding tournament. Hughes dominated in every facet of the game. His skating was on full display and his offensive precision was mouth-watering. Able to set players around him up or take control and score a goal at will, Hughes U18 tournament was absolutely dominate. 

The chemistry with Cole Caufield that was established throughout the season with the USNTDP was a major factor for both players record setting tournaments. While much was made of Caufield tying Alexander Ovechkin’s tournament record for goals (14 goals in seven games), Hughes was setting records of his own. After collecting 12 points at last year’s tournament, the 20 points he scored this year were good enough to eclipse Ovechkin’s all-time tournament record of 31 points with 32. Hughes’ nearly unprecedented run at the World U18 tournament helped earn him a spot on the Men’s IIHF World Hockey Championship.

Video courtesy of Hockey Prospect Center Youtube channel

Despite making the World Championship roster, Hughes was not able to make a difference for the American team. He wasn’t afforded the same opportunity as Kakko at the men’s tournament but it was a good eye-opening experience. Hughes had played a lot of hockey to this point and seemed a little bit gassed. In comparison, Kakko skipped the U18s in order to prepare for this tournament and ended up closing the gap on Hughes and even passed him in some evaluator’s eyes. Hughes struggled at times with the strength of the players from various men’s leagues around the world including the NHL. His best game may have come in his last game in which he had two assists. He finished with just three assists n the tournament. The young American played good for stretches but also clearly had his struggles when it came to competing physically. 

What the Detractors Say

There is no perfect player. Even some of the best in the world have their weaknesses. Many of Hughes is skills are impressive to say the least and will likely translate well to the NHL. The biggest knock on Hughes is the fact that he is a diminutive forward who isn’t a physical force on the ice. Hughes is also looked at as someone who can be seen floating in the defensive zone. This is often because he is almost always in position in his own end and floats in and out of passing lanes. Overall his biggest weakness is his size which is something that can’t be changed which means that it’s something a team will have to live with but the immense skill more than makes up for it.

Jack Hughes will be taken…

First overall most likely. Barring any major change or a catastrophic injury of some sort in training, there is little doubt that Hughes will be a New Jersey Devil come June’s NHL Entry Draft. While Kappo Kakko has closed the gap on the American, Hughes is still the top dog in this draft. While Kakko would likely be the top overall pick in many years, Hughes potential to be a franchise changing player has the Finn playing second fiddle.

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This year’s top-ranked prospect is going to be an NHL star in all likelihood. His speed, skill and playmaking ability will almost assuredly be flying up the ice in the black and red (and sometimes green) of the New Jersey Devils. With a one-two punch down the middle of Hughes and 2017 first overall pick Nico Hischier, the New Jersey Devils could be turning a page on the past and fully embrace the speed and skill, up-tempo offensive game of the modern NHL. Combining that with the possible re-signing of 2018 Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall, the Devils may return to legitimacy in less time than most pundits anticipate. Jack Hughes will be the catalyst for that.

For more on the NHL, prospects and the NHL Draft, follow me here at @TheTonyFerrari on twitter!

All stats and information provided by Hockey Reference, Elite ProspectsDobber Prospects and NHL.com