No. 3 – Luke Hughes
Defenseman Luke Hughes is one of a few aces up the sleeve of the New Jersey Devils. Despite only playing 2 career games, the third Hughes brother was definitely born to be in the spotlight.
During the 2022-23 season, Luke played for the University of Michigan Wolverines and put together an astounding 10 goals (3 of them highlight-reel game-winners) and 38 assists in 39 games played, finishing 7th in the NCAA with 48 points. Did we mention he’s a defenseman?
What makes Luke Hughes our No. 3 X-Factor is the fact that there’s no film on him. This makes it almost impossible for the New York Rangers to put together a quality scouting report on the 19-year-old defenseman.
To have an idea of the kind of impact that Luke Hughes can have for the Devils in their first-round matchup against the Rangers, take a look at his performance in the season closer versus the Washington Capitals where he notched both his first goal and assist of his NHL career.
His goal was the game-winner in overtime, weaving his way through three Capitals players, toe-dragging past Alex Ovechkin in the slot, and swiveling around the back of the net for a wrap-around to complete the Devils’ comeback after being down 4-2 to start the 3rd period.
Luke’s offensive skillset will add serious firepower to a rather reserved New Jersey blue line coming in as a viable two-way threat defenseman. As we’ve seen in past years with college players hopping in the lineup for playoffs (e.g. Cale Makar of the Colorado Avalanche), Luke can jump straight into the matchup and serve as a potent threat on the backend for ‘Jersey.