2. Just how big a step forward will Jack Hughes take?
I know, I know, it’s a crazy take barely worth any of our time, but hey, why not humor them for a moment? Could be fun.
Did the middle Hughes boy have a rough start to his professional hockey playing career? Most definitely, some would go so far as to call it the worst rookie season of any first overall pick in recent memory, but does anyone really believe that makes the 19-year-old a lost cause?
No, the question really isn’t will Jack Hughes take a step forward, but how big a step will it be?
With playing time at top-line center fully freed up thanks to Hischier’s injury, Hughes will not only be given a chance to fully test his mettle alongside the best and brightest the Devils have to offer, but do so on a loose leash without fear of being kicked onto the wings if he starts to struggle.
If offseason reports and the Devils’ social media accounts are of any indication, Hughes is returning a bigger, stronger player with a newfound chip on his shoulder. If he can use that chip to double his rookie production, it’ll go a long way to silencing his detractors.
And if he can throw up 50-plus points, the most by a Devils center since Hischier during his rookie season, well, New Jersey’s playoff window may be a whole lot closer than we may have initially assumed.
Huh, scoring 50 points before he’s old enough to buy alcohol legally in the United States? Maybe Jack Hughes has the makings of a golden boy after all.