Continuing his stellar year at Michigan, what can Luke Hughes provide the New Jersey Devils ahead of the Stanley Cup Playoffs?
If there’s one thing that we know about the three Hughes brothers, it’s that this family is destined for greatness. When the New Jersey Devils drafted Luke Hughes (the youngest of the three) No. 4 overall in the 2021 NHL Draft, they knew they were getting something special. Scouts, and Luke himself, stated that the only thing that separates him from his brothers, Jack and Quinn, is that he’s 6’2″.
While he still needs to add some muscle at just 185 lbs., Luke Hughes is the perfect size for today’s prototypical defenseman in the NHL. He’s just as fast, skilled, and smart as his brothers as well. If you’ve watched Jack Hughes’s MVP-caliber season this year for ‘Jersey, the thought of having a second player of that caliber is exciting enough to make you run through your living room’s drywall.
The Hughes brothers are the first three siblings to ever be drafted in the top 10 of the NHL Entry Draft. Quinn Hughes is a hallmark offensive defenseman and cornerstone piece for the Vancouver Canucks and, as referenced previously, Jack Hughes is becoming a legitimate top 5 player in the league.
With all of this being said, what can we expect from Luke Hughes when he joins the New Jersey Devils after he concludes his season at the University of Michigan?
What kind of early impact will Luke Hughes have for the New Jersey Devils in the 2022-23 NHL season and playoffs?
The New Jersey Devils have become one of the most dominant teams in the league offensively in the 2022-23 NHL season thanks to career years from players like Jesper Bratt, Nico Hischier, and Jack Hughes. In the event that Luke has a successful transition to the game’s biggest stage towards the end of the season, he’ll add even more firepower coming from the point.
In 30 games played for the Michigan Wolverines in the 2022-23 NCAA season, Luke has put together 9 goals and 36 total points while showing that unmistakable Hughes skillset as well as incredible poise in clutch moments for the program. While it may take another year or two for Luke Hughes to solidify his role as an NHL-caliber defenseman, he has the offensive talent to make an impact straight out of college for the Devils.
The 19-year-old would easily start on the third pair on this New Jersey defense as he would replace Kevin Bahl/Brendan Smith to play alongside either Damon Severson, Johnny “Hockey” Marino, or Ryan Graves. In any event, head coach Lindy Ruff would be sure to slot him with a veteran defenseman who can sit back and play conservatively to allow Luke free reign on offense.
If there’s one player to who we can compare his potential impact, it’s Cale Makar and the impact he had for the Colorado Avalanche straight out of U-Mass Amherst. Both players have an elite skillset, as mentioned many times already, but Cale wasn’t able to become a reliable defender right out of the gate, just as Luke will. It has nothing to do with how talented they are. It’s simply a matter of transitioning from defending NCAA players, to professional athletes like Sidney Crosby. It’s a tall order to ask from veterans, never mind a rookie.
However, the coaching staff will certainly put Luke Hughes in a situation where he can have free reign on offense and contribute in the same way he’s doing with Michigan in order to have the smoothest transition possible. The benefit of this New Jersey Devils defense is that the blue-liners rarely ever take risks in the offensive zone and play very conservatively. This can compensate for the aggression that Luke will be encouraged to have down the stretch of the NHL season.
This kid has all of the talent and smarts to contribute to ‘Jersey’s playoff run as soon as the NCAA season concludes. It goes without saying that Devils fans are ready for the Hughes era, with Jack leading the team on offense, and Luke locking it down on defense (with a potential family reunion of Quinn joining the team down the road). When Luke records his first NHL point with the help of his brother Jack for the first time ever, the roof might blow off at the Rock as it will surely be a sight to behold.