NHL Draft Profile: Spencer Knight

Spencer Knight is the top goalie among most draft aficionados. He was the unheralded backbone of one of the best USNTDP of all-time. His ability to stay calm, cool and collected paired with maybe the best athleticism for any player in the draft combine to make Knight a top prospect in the 2019 NHL Draft.

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Name: Spencer Knight

Date of Birth: April 19, 2001

Nationality (Place of Birth): American (Darien, CT, USA)

Hieght: 6’3″

Weight: 198lbs

Catches: Left

Position: G

Rankings

Ranked #12 by TSN/McKenzie

Scouting Report

The top goaltender in the draft has been outstanding all year. He has shown all the tools that talent evaluators look for in a young goaltender. His mental make-up is strong and he does an excellent job staying poised. He doesn’t panic or get flustered after allowing a weak goal. He stays focused and is able to see around screens because he shows great awareness of the play. The American goaltender does an excellent job at keeping his back upright and keeping a solid base to ensure that he’s using his entire 6’3″ frame in the net. In the video below, you can see Knight hold his ground despite the Finnish players best attempt at poking the puck free.  

Throughput the year, Knight showed that his maturity was well beyond his years. Often times with young goalies, sustained pressure from the opposition can lead to a break down in positioning and cause the young netminder to allow a goal that he would normally save. This isn’t often the case for Knight. He is able to harness his poise and focus in on tracking the puck while staying in good position. His eyes stay locked in on the puck and he is able to make multiple saves by kicking his pads out and closing down on the puck despite good movement from the opposing team. The video below if a perfect example of Knights ability to keep focused and dialed in on the puck. 

 

At the draft combine, many came away with the realization that Knight was among the best athletes in the draft. Knight shows his impressive athleticism with his ability to move laterally with precision and recover on plays that become a scramble in front of him. His lateral movement is extremely crisp and he rarely overshoots his positioning. He comes across the crease with a strong push. His ability to keep his upper body high while sliding over helps him stay big and cover the net as he transitions. Below you can see Knight unable to corral the loose puck in front of him but quickly recovers and uses his athleticism to make an outstanding save. 

Lower body strength and stability is an asset that goalies need and Spencer Knight has both. The future franchise netminder has the strength to keep his pad down and pinned to either post while still being able to stay upright and actively following the puck. The lower body strength aids in his push off from post-to-post and allows him to kick out his pads during a slide. As you can see below, Knight is able to use the aforementioned lower body strength to push off the right post and explode towards the recipient of the pass. His strong core allows him to stay upright long enough to make the marvelous save. 

When it comes to positioning, Knight is consistently stable. He plays a mature game which makes him far ahead of the curve for draft eligible goaltenders. The goalkeeper does a good job at absorbing the puck into his chest and not allowing egregious rebound more often than not. His reflexes have developed further throughout the year and he’s been able to track and catch shots quite well. When the puck is shot to his blocker side, he often deflects the puck into the corner or up into the net depending on the situation. Knight is able to track a pass through the middle of the ice and not over commit on a slide. He stops in perfect position and is able to make the save with ease as you can see in the video below.  

What the Detractors Say

While no 18-year-old goaltender is perfect, Spencer Knight does everything you’d like a goaltender to do. One of the few aspects of Knight’s game that scouts have picked on is his tendency to play fairly deep in his net at times. While he comes out to challenge shooters in one-on-one scenarios, he has sunken into his net at times during sustained pressure. While this hasn’t been an issue at junior level, it could become an issue at the next level as the athletic goalie moves forward. His athleticism helps him make up for the depth in which he plays at but he could stand to play a little higher in his crease.

Preseason Outlook

Having played in 14 games with the USNTDP U18 team a year early, many expected Knight to put on a show for the 2018-19 season. His positioning and athleticism allowed him to play up a level with success. Coming into the year, the young goaltender was considered the top goalie and he did nothing to change that fact.

Video courtesy of Justy Power YouTube

USNTDP Success

The top-tier prospect in net was outstanding this year on a stacked USNTDP team. With the high-powered offence, Knight certainly received his fair share of goal support but there was a number of times where Knight would put on a goaltending clinic. Early in the season Knight put together a masterful performance against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, ranked third in the NCAA at the time. Showing off all of his tools, this game signified his dominance and showed that he can read a play and play good positional hockey at a young age. In the video below, Knight makes an outstanding save on a slap shot from the circle. He shows excellent reflexes with the glove stage. 

Knight continued to put together good performances against both USHL and NCAA competition. He finished the year with a save percentage of .903 against USHL opponents but a .913 overall if you include the tougher NCAA schedule as well. This showed that he was able to play up to the competition and he benefitted from facing more steady work rather than the games in the USHL where his team often outshot the opposition by a wide margin.

Strong U18 World Championships

The world stage was where Knight shone brightest this year. At the U18 World Championships this year, Knight was able to dominate his peers. In his six games at the tournament, he allowed just 1.51 goals against average and had a sparkling .936 save percentage. However it was the save that he made that showed he would be an NHL goaltender sooner than many thought coming into the year.

Spencer Knight will be taken…

Somewhere in the 15-25 range most likely but there’s a chance he goes slightly earlier. Goalies are seldom drafted in the first round anymore but Knight is destined to be the exception. He’s one of the best American goaltending prospects in years and projects extremely well. His athleticism and mental fortitude will serve him well as he hopes to take the next step at Boston College next year. He is likely to step into a prominent role in the program despite being a freshman. His first task will be taking full control of the net and continuing to develop with the help of his Boston College athletic staff. The future franchise goaltender should, and likely will, be selected in the middle of the first round of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.

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

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

Minnesota Wild: Larger Than Life

Full disclosure: This series has little, if anything, to do with stats, facts, or analysis of the Minnesota Wild. It will not include an in-depth monologue on whether or not so-and-so will re-sign with the Wild.

 

Rather, this series aims to put a face on the fanbase by highlighting the fan stories that started and continue to grow the fanbase, to tell the stories in which hockey became larger than life and instilled something intangible in the hearts of fans all over the world.

Buckle up, folks—it is going to get Wild.

What better place to start the series than in the state of hockey itself?

The first person interviewed for the series was @Jensrud95. When asked to tell a little about herself, she shared that she is 23-years-old and lives in Minnesota.

If you check her Twitter bio, you will find that she is a YouTuber (Jens95 on YouTube), and boasts nearly 99,000 followers there. A quick browse of her content will surface loads of video clips from the National Hockey League and some of her own goalie clips.

Like many people in Minnesota, hockey has been a part of Jensrud’s life a long time. It is, after all, the state of hockey. She shared that she has been a hockey fan since age six, playing since she was eight, spent two years as a skater, and has been goaltending since those two years ran their course.

But the story of how she got into playing hockey is a little more interesting.

Like many young girls, Ruds grew up admiring her dad and playing football with him, and that’s where her love for sports was cultivated.

Hockey Wasn’t Her First Love

On it she explains, “Growing up, I idolized my dad, and he played football, so I played football with my brother. …My mom forgot to sign us up for registration for football season, but I wanted to play a sport. …The one she came across was hockey, so she put me in that when I was eight. I’ve loved it since. The only thing I wanted to do was just play hockey 24/7.”

In asking about her family involvement with hockey, it became clear that hockey was a part of the family fibers before she started playing. She explains, “Well, my dad watched it, and he actually had on the PlayStation … NHL ’98, and I always wanted to play it. …My dad was like ‘You’re too young, you’re too young, you’re too young.’  And … the first taste of hockey I ever had was watching him play NHL ’98. …then I got to watch some of … the games on TV ‘cause my uncle was a huge Red Wings fan. Then I became a Wild fan when they came … into the league. And from there it just took off.”

While she was too young to catch anything from the North Stars, she does remember her dad talking about them. When asked about it, she closed the question with a little quip: “Good ol’ Norm.”

For most of us, there is a single moment where hockey becomes larger than life. That, of course, is the birthplace of this series. For Jensrud95, that moment was particularly special: “Oh, I got to go see the first ever game that Derek Boogaard played when he first played with the Wild, and that was like, I just realized it was much more than just hockey. Like here’s this guy who doesn’t, who barely knew how to kind of skate with the players, just out there being the enforcer that we needed. It was really neat, just watching him just go out there and check everybody, and I mean… that was like the best moment. Because my teammate brought me, and I was just like, ‘Oh, my gosh!’ The atmosphere… Like, people, around us were cheering, and we were cheering with them. I mean, we were little kids, but we were all going crazy, high fiving each other, we were all taking photos, it was just…a great time.”

The Passion For Hockey Runs Deep

Despite having not seen the Wild play anywhere other than the Xcel Energy Center, Jens’ passion for hockey is unparalleled by anything else in her life. When the family-friendly atmosphere at the Xcel, she described, “Well, we are the state of hockey, so that’s why we take hockey seriously. …Hockey is hockey to us. We will cheer on any team we have, even in the new NWHL, the Whitecaps, we are just in love. We just cheer on anyone that plays, that’s why they call us the State of Hockey. I love it.”

For Jens, that is not where the love for hockey ends. Instead, it gets personal, too. She explained about the thing she is most proud of regarding hockey, “The coolest thing I have from hockey, and it’s not even like winning tournaments or anything, it’s that … I’ve had some comments from young females that said ‘I strapped on the pads because of you, because you have fun playing hockey, you show the fun side of hockey, and that’s why I wanted to play goalie,’ or ‘that’s why I wanted to play hockey’. …The number one goal I want is to be the role model for, not only just younger females, but just people in general. I want people to see the fun side … I just want people to realize that winning and losing is fun, but there’s just so much more to winning or losing. Like, to go out there for a solid hour and be with your second family, to make friends, to learn … leadership roles, to be, like, the last line of defense, it’s just a mental thing, and it’s the greatest thing ever.”

It’s not just about being a role model, either. For Jens, there is a huge social part of hockey that takes it from just a sport, to something so much more: “I think the best part about just hockey, like, in general is just that some of us go to games, and some of us just stay at home. So … you can go to a bar and you can hang out with your friends and chitchat with them while watching the game, catch up on life, cheer, and you can make new friends at the bar, obviously. …To me, hockey is so much more than just hockey. That’s where you go to make friends. … It’s just… you make friends, and it’s a time where you can just forget about the world and just focus on your favorite team.

Like any other sports fan who is familiar with losing at some point, though, Jens gets real about what it means to be Minnesota Wild fan: “I would say it’s heartbreaking. It’s emotionally heartbreaking… We sit in the middle, we’re average, so it’s heartbreaking.”

However, when asked what she loved most about the Wild, she brought it back to what makes the sport so important to their thousands of fans, “I love that the Wild organization is all about the community. Yes, it’s great to see the Wild win, but what they do off the ice matters a lot more to me. I’m proud to be a Wild fan because they make me feel important. The surprise visits to the rinks, taking kids on shopping sprees, donating money to important causes. They just care so much about us as fans that it’s hard not to love them.”

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!

Clearing the Puck! Your Weekly Look at the World of Hockey!

Welcome back to Clearing the Puck for the week of June 1st to 7th! This week we look more at the Stanley Cup Finals and the NHL Entry Draft! I also shamelessly show my love for the Toronto Raptors again!

Incase this is your first time, here is the rundown. What we’re going to be doing at Puck77 is putting out a weekly recap. There are going to be observations, summaries and some cool things that we noticed around the web from the NHL and the world of hockey from the last week. There will be 10 points every Saturday morning. Included will be links to articles from our website as well as many others to help fill you in on some of the best hockey and NHL content from around the web. Without further ado, let’s dive into the week!

Brett Hull is Fired Up!

You have to love when teams bring back some of the legends. It’s a big thing around sports and hockey is no different. This week the St. Louis Blues brought out Brett Hull prior to game four. The Blues Executive VP was fired up when addressing the crowd and it seemed to pump up the team and the crowd. He also flipped off the Boston Bruins bench during the game.


Tweet courtesy of @NHLonNBCSports

Craig Button’s Draft Rankings

The topic of the draft world on Thursday was the release of TSN Head Scout Craig Button’s 2019 Draft Rankings. The reason for that was what some called complete lack of effort and insight outside of their Elite Prospects page. I am not going to go into the actual rankings or even the errors in the small blurbs that were attached to each prospect. What I will say is that at a bare minimum, we should respect his rankings.

Craig Button has been an NHL general manager, scout and involved in hockey in many ways that most of us could only dream of. Whether or not you agree with his rankings, many of which I personally don’t, you shouldn’t attack the man. Criticize his ranking, point out that there were errors in the stats listed and the blurbs but there are too many times where people were attacking Button and calling for his job. Let’s be honest, we would kill to be in his position and he’s worked hard. This year his rankings were bad in many eyes, but he has the pedigree and connections that could be giving him information that he used. Yes he should have double checked (or have a TSN intern do it) and it poorly reflects on him and his rankings. Attack the rankings if you must, but stop attacking the human being. Be kind to your fellow human being.

Bruins Experience Poor Officiating, Oh no…

So we all know that the Bruins have played “Bruins hockey” all playoffs long. From Brad Marchand punching guys in the back of the head to Zdeno Chara uppercutting John Tavares in a scrum, the Bruins know how to play on the line better than any other team. The officiating in the post-season has been questionable to say the least, but the Bruins have been the beneficiary more often than not this year.

Until now. As game four of the Stanley Cup finals started getting closer to the finish with the Blues holding a 1-0 lead the Bruins got their taste of the officiating. Tyler Bozak skates towards the puck carrier, Noel Acciari, and blatantly trips him. The trip disrupts the pass which St. Louis recovers and then scores to put the Blues up 2-0.


Tweet courtesy of @BradyTrett

Making this situation all the more painful for Bruins fans was the fact that Jake DeBrusk scored almost right away, which conceivably could have tied the game. Now we don’t know if that goal happens with the game playing out differently but it’s undeniable that this stings for Boston. So much so that fans were fighting each other in the stands. Again, be kind people.


Tweet courtesy of @theTonyFerrari

Officiating disasters of this post season!

Speaking of terrible officiating, Rogers Sportsnet’s Rory Boylen put out an article on Friday summarizing some of the worst calls of the playoffs. I’m not going to go into it a ton, but I will say that there are three teams that seemed to have benefitted the most. The Boston Bruins, St. Louis Blues and most of all, the San Jose Sharks. You can read Rory’s piece here.

Puck77 Draft Rankings

The Puck77 site rankings came out last weekend! There was a lot of movement from our previous rankings. How far did Caufield rise? Did Kakko overtake Hughes? Who slipped into the end of the top-31? You can check the rankings out below!

https://twitter.com/thepuck77/status/1134795135982682112?s=21
Tweet courtesy of @thePuck77

Chara doesn’t care about his face!

Zdeno Chara is a freak. He’s a massive man, listed at 6’9″ and 250lbs. He is a future Hall of Famer. He has won the Norris Trophy as the leagues best defenceman. He also doesn’t care about his face. During game three, Chara was attempting to disrupt a shot when the puck deflected cleanly off his stick and struck him directly in the face.


Tweet courtesy of @HockeyNight

After dealing with the blood and injury during the intermission, the Bruins captain came back to the bench to help cheer his team on with a full face shield. He didn’t play the remainder of that game despite being on the bench in the third. He did however, suit up for the Bruins in game four and played 16:42 of the game and while he wasn’t 100% he was effective at times with his long reach and strength in the defensive zone. Chara is an animal.

Puck77 NHL Draft Profiles

This week Puck77 released our NHL Draft Profile Deep Dives for the top dozen prospects on our rankings. In the profiles you can find a scouting report, some basic stats and advanced stats, video with quick analysis and a review of their season. They are arguably some of the most in-depth free profiles on these players. Enjoy reading them and prepare for the draft with Puck77! You can find them below, linked to each player.

Jack Hughes

Kaapo Kakko

Alex Turcotte

Bowen Byram

Trevor Zegras

Dylan Cozens

Cole Caufield

Kirby Dach

Alex Newhook

Peyton Krebs

Matthew Boldy

Vasili Podkolzin

Erik Karlsson finally gets his groin fixed

https://twitter.com/sanjosesharks/status/1136374623606583296?s=21
Tweet courtesy of @SanJoseSharks

Erik Karlsson is one of the best defencemen of our generation. He’s one of the all-time greats with multiple Norris trophy wins. During his playoff run with San Jose, Karlsson looked absolutely hobbled. His hamstring injury plagued him all season and in the playoffs, it was so much worse. San Jose confirmed this week that Karlsson had surgery to repair the injury. It’s a welcome sight because the all-time great is looking to sign his big-money contract. Hopefully, for the sake of hockey, Erik Karlsson recovers fully and we can start watching him make extraordinary plays again. This was mostly my excuse to watch Karlsson highlights.

Video courtesy of the Hockey Brothers Youtube channel

Podcasts to get you through the summer!

With the NHL season almost over, I figured I’d throw some podcast out here to listen to while you pass the time in the summer. Some are hockey, some aren’t, but here’s a solid list of stuff I’m listening to and stuff I want to get together.

Steve Dangle Podcast (Leafs Centric, all NHL)

Hockey PDOcast (NHL General, stats)

Staff and Graph podcast (NHL General, stats, strategy)

Winged Wheel Podcast (Red Wings centric)

Always Aggravated (Sports General, pop culture)

Andrew Berkshire Podcast (Movies/Superheroes)

Hardcore History with Dan Carlin (history, long form)

What Really Happened? (A look back at historical events)

Atlanta Monster/Monster: Zodiac (Crime, History)

Full 60 (Hockey General, Athletic subscription required)

Puck Soup (Hockey General, Athletic subscription required)

Most of these fantastic podcasts can be found on Apple Podcast, Google, Spotify or any other podcast app or pod-catcher that you may use!

Raptors go up 3-1!

This is a hockey blog but the Toronto Raptors fever that’s overtaken Canada has been a blast! I won’t go crazy into analysis but it’s a big deal for Canada! So here’s this gem from Shaw after the Raps win over the Golden State Warriors to go up 3-1 in the NBA finals and come that much closer to Canada bringing a Championship home in the four major sports for the first time since the Blue Jays in 1993!

Video courtesy of TSN YouTube channel

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. 

Embed from Getty Images

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.

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