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  • Jack Hughes: The Next Great American Hockey Star


    Some of you may be looking for answers as to why the Wild aren’t having the season we expected so far. Some of you may think you know the answers. But I’m here to take your mind away from the madness that is the 2017-18 Minnesota Wild thus far.

    The wave of American players that have come up the ranks have given USA hockey something to be excited about as of late. It stinks that the NHL isn’t participating in the Olympics in 2018 because the roster would look a lot better than the David Backes’s, Dustin Brown’s, and Ryan Callahan’s of the 2014 team. Since the conclusion of the 2014 Olympics, a lot of elite American players have been drafted, cracked NHL rosters, and have emerged as top-of-the-league talent. Dylan Larkin and Nick Schmaltz from the ‘14 Draft. Jack Eichel, Noah Hanifin, and Zach Werenski from ‘15. And so far the 2016 Draft has been pretty loaded with Americans making the jump, and taking the league by storm. Auston Matthews, Matthew Tkachuk, Clayton Keller, Charlie McAvoy, and Minnesota Wild pick Luke Kunin. Among many others over the years.

    It’s no different with Americans that are playing for the U18 and U17 United States National Team Development Programs. The U17 team in particular has already made its mark on a global level this year after they won the World U17 Hockey Challenge that took place in British Columbia in early November. They dominated the U17s from Sweden, Canada, Czech Republic, etc. One of the players that led USA to the gold medal is Jack Hughes. NHL fans should get used to hearing this name because he’s going to be one of the elite talents coming up. Hughes, 2019 NHL draft eligible, led the World U17 Hockey Challenge in assists and points. He dominated the preliminary round and continued his hot streak into the medal round with a final stat line of 5 goals and 10 assists for 15 points in 6 games. If you’re not familiar with the U17 USNTDP schedule, they play in some international games, like the World Challenge, and also play a USHL schedule. I had a chance to watch Hughes and the U17 team play last weekend against the Omaha Lancers in Omaha. It was Hughes’ 7th game playing in the USHL this year and he added an assist in a 6-1 loss to the Lancers. The young 17 year olds looked outmatched physically against the older Lancers team, but you could see the skill in the USA players. Hughes, in particular, possesses a high level of hockey IQ, quick hands, and crafty passing. You can just tell he is going to be one of those players where the game develops in his mind much quicker than most players. The assist that he registered was his 14th point in 7 games for the USHL portion of his schedule. To put that in perspective, he has the highest points per game total in the entire USHL at 2.00, and his 14 points are currently tied for 16th in the league with significantly less games played than most of the players (most players with more points than him have played anywhere from 14-19 games).

    Let’s go back to his performance in the World U17 Hockey Challenge from November. You can find all of the stats for this tournament at hockeycanada.ca. The United States played in 6 total games which included three preliminary round games, and 3 medal round games. Hughes registered a point in every game throughout the tournament, with 6 points (3 goals and 3 assists) in the preliminary round. What may be even more impressive was his ability to turn his game up to another level when it mattered most; the medal round. In the quarterfinal game he added a goal and an assist for 2 points in a 5-1 win over Sweden. In the semifinal game he put up 3 more points in a 9-1 route of Canada White. And he somehow out-performed his semifinal game by adding 1 goal and 3 assists in the gold medal game against Canada Red that USA won 6-4.

    We still have 18 months until we will be ready for Jack Hughes’ name to announced at the NHL draft, but he is playing at such a high level right now that I can’t help but get hyped about one of the next elite American players. This coming June everyone is expecting Rasmus Dahlin’s name to be the first heard, but remember the name Jack Hughes when the draft rankings come out for the 2019 draft. I guarantee it will be at or near the top.

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