The Draft Analyst:
Turbo-charged center with blinding speed and fantastic vision who has dominated his peers at every level. Hughes’ skill is noticeable from the second he hits the ice, but his ability to make every single one of decisions seem calculated is what separates him from a very talented group of draft-eligible forwards. His sixth sense allows him to sniff out trouble before it’s within striking distance while simultaneously identifying weaknesses within the opponent’s scheme to stop him. It’s cliche to say he makes everyone around him better, but Hughes does so in more ways that one.
For starters, Hughes is an excellent playmaker with hawk-like vision who can perfectly time passes to linemates over long distances, especially off the rush. He uses a variety of head fakes, stutter steps and quick pivots to lure defenders away from a passing lane, and he can no-look pass better than any junior-aged player since Connor McDavid. But Hughes isn’t just a pass-first center, as he uses his blazing speed, agility and elite stickhandling to make inside moves towards the goal with regularity. Once he’s there, he’ll either wire a blistering wrister or use his ridiculously soft hands to roof shots from in close on either his forehand or backhand. These traits not only expand the ice for his teammates, but also seem to wear down defenders as they work feverishly towards trying to contain him.
Hughes is a superstar in the making. He’s going to push the boundaries of the “smaller/faster” swing in the NHL. He’s an incredibly gifted skater and plays the game at a very high level but he’s both short and sleight, making it a real question how he physically handles the rigors of the NHL. We’ve seen him take some big hits and keep on ticking but how he does that over the course of the regular season and postseason will determine how high this rocket will fly.
Hughes is an electric talent who could be Patrick Kane or end up more like Clayton Keller. Either way, he’s going to be a quality NHL player if he’s able to physically hold up. His skill set is perfectly suited for today’s game.
In their dreams at this point. Had Colorado landed the first pick, it would have been a very interesting conversation whether or not they preferred Hughes or Kakko. Now, we’ll never know. Enjoy New Jersey or New York, Jack!