Now that we are that much closer to the draft and, more importantly, knowing the Ducks’ destiny with regards to where they might select with their own first round pick - let us do a more in-depth look at each player I initially covered as well as some others that I did not.
Next up is the still-likely-to-go-first Jack Hughes.
I initially had this to say about him.
Still rated the likely first overall pick, Hughes contains a dangerous combination of speed, skill, vision and hockey smarts. His elite level skating makes him a force when moving, and he is dynamic with the puck both from a stand-still or while on the rush. He has 56 points in 28 games for the USNTDP while playing as their first line center and captain; he also had four assists in four games for Team USA at the World Juniors. Potentially his one and only knock right now is size, which - with the ever changing nature of the new NHL- is not as much an issue as it used to be. Pronman does comment that where similar diminutive forwards like Gaudreau and Datsyuk made a living out of avoiding being hit, Hughes gets hit a little more than he’d like. The Ducks do need a new franchise defining first line center and if they are lucky enough to lose their way to the clubs’ first ever number one selection, then Hughes is it.
But since February one could say that Hughes’ stock has fallen slightly whilst the current incumbent number two - Kaapo Kakko - has seen his stock rise significantly. This is mostly due to Kakko finishing the season strong and making headlines with some record breaking accomplishments, while Hughes - while still breaking some USNDP program career point totals, is doing it in a league with kids mostly his own age. Kakko is doing his world beating against men.
But enough about Kakko.
Team: United States Development Program
Weight: 168lb (76kg)
Age: 17 (DOB May 14, 2001 - Orlando, FL)
Hughes currently has 78 points in 37 games, a 2.1 points per game rate and first in the program. He has already broken several of the USNDP’s career totals including assists (125 between 2017-19 and counting) and points.
You have seen the general gist of Corey Pronman’s thoughts on him, but I would like to add to that what Scott Wheeler said in his mid-season ranking.
Outside of Connor McDavid, Hughes may be the best puck carrier and playmaker at No. 1 in the last decade. None of Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov, Nathan MacKinnon or Auston Matthews had the creativity that Hughes has or the vision to execute on it. - Scott Wheeler, The Athletic
So for those concerned about the lack of size on Hughes - that kind of review should at least put those fears aside, and name dropping McDavid and Matthews in a sentence that not only compares but leads to a conclusion of his talent being potentially better than the latter aforementioned Leafs franchise center, has me still super excited at the slim but possible chance of the Ducks being able to select him this coming June.