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BUFFALO — Jack Hughes is ready for the next step in his NHL career with the New Jersey Devils.
“I’m looking forward to the start of training camp (on Friday) now,” Hughes said Monday after his final game for the Devils in the 2019 Prospects Challenge at HarborCenter.
The four-day event, which featured prospects from the Devils, Buffalo Sabres, Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins, concluded for New Jersey with a 3-2 overtime win against the Bruins on Monday. Hughes, who was the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, centered the top line in the win on Monday and had a goal in a 6-4 loss to the Sabres on Friday. The 18-year-old, who did not play against the Penguins on Saturday, skated hard and created offense, proving to be everything the Devils envisioned.
“It was a great experience getting to know the guys and the coaches,” Hughes said.
In a wide-ranging interview with NHL.com, Hughes discussed his expectations for his rookie season, his brother, Vancouver Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes, and the season opener against the Winnipeg Jets on Oct. 6:
What are you most looking forward to this season?
“Definitely playing my first NHL game. I kind of just wish I could fast forward from here to our season opener and get going. So I’m really excited for that moment when I step on the ice at Prudential Center in front of our great fans.”
Do you anticipate hitting a rookie wall and, if so, how do you manage that?
“I think that in an 82-game season, you’re not going to play 82 great games. For me, I’ve talked to some people and think I just have to manage to be confident the whole way through. I can’t lose my confidence. I just have to keep playing because I’ve been doing the same things my whole life. I’ll just try to stick to the game that got me this far and keep my confidence.”
Are you familiar with Nikita Gusev (acquired by the Devils in a trade with the Vegas Golden Knights on July 29)?
“I played against him once when I played for the United States against Russia at the 2019 IIHF World Championship. It’s pretty fun to watch him play. He’s a really skilled player and I think we’re similar in the way that we’re pass first kind of guys, can move the puck well, and have high IQ. If I end up playing with him (on a line), for sure it would be a lot of fun.”
Do you anticipate you or your brother having the more productive rookie season?
“I think we jab at each other a little bit, but at the same time, you want to see each other have success and do really well. So as much as I want to do better than him, you want to see him have just as much success.”
Mark Dennehy (coach of Binghamton of the American Hockey League) said he was impressed with your situational question to him during a power play late in the 6-4 loss to the Sabres on Friday. He said it proved that you are a real student of the game. Can you share what you asked Dennehy?
“I’m sorry, I don’t really remember. I think I was just trying to stay dialed in for a full game. It can be tough when you’re losing 6-0 or 6-1. We came back a little bit but didn’t get the win.”
Is it difficult dealing with all the attention and media requests on a daily basis?
“I think it’s all part of [being a professional athlete]. It’s a part of the job, really, and comes with the territory. I kind of live and I learn and try to just be smart on how to handle things the right way.”