Connor Bedard this, Connor Bedard that. A lot of the focus this season has been on the Chicago Blackhawks rookie. It’s completely justified. Bedard has been as advertised and then some this season as not only an impressive rookie but a player overall. However, as great as Bedard has been, there’s been a bit of an overshadowing from the state of New Jersey. At the jump of the 2023-24 season, New Jersey Devils Jack Hughes is reminding everyone that Hughes is the hype.
Hughes is off to a historic start to the season. On Tuesday night against the Montreal Canadiens, the Devils forward recorded four primary assists to capture the most points to open a season through a team’s first five games since 2010-11, a record previously held by Patrick Marleau in the post-recorded statistics era.
In the overall history, only Mario Lemieux, Mike Bossy, and Babe Dye have recorded more points through a franchise’s first five games of the season.
However, it doesn’t stop there. Hughes is also one of 10 players who have recorded multiple four-plus point efforts through five games in a single season since 1993-94. That list features names such as Connor McDavid, Artemi Panarin, and Brian Leetch to name a few.
Per the NHL PR, “Hughes (4-10—14 in 5 GP) matched the fewest games by an active player to reach 10 assists in a single season, tying Evgeny Kuznetsov (5 GP in 2017-18 w/ WSH).”
Additionally, “Hughes (4-10—14 in 5 GP) matched the most points by a U.S.-born player through his team’s first five games of a season, a feat Kevin Stevens first accomplished in 1990-91 with the Penguins (4-10—14).”
To take things a step further, Stathletes identified Hughes as the NHL’s leading scorer with 2.80 primary points per game, ranked him third in scoring chances per game with 3.60, and second in the NHL in primary scoring chance assists per game. All 10 of Hughes’ assists this season have been primary.
Lastly, and potentially most impressively, the Devils forward leads the NHL with 6.4 primary scoring chances per game. That’s more than Bedard, Connor McDavid, and Nathan MacKinnon, fellow NHL elites.
Suffice to say, Hughes is sucking up all the oxygen around the NHL. He’s leading the league in points with 14 (tied at the top of the NHL with Dylan Larkin). He’s unlikely to reach the 229-point pace he’s on. However, it’s apparent that Hughes is not satisfied with his 99-point season in 2022-23.
Hughes has already claimed significant New Jersey franchise accolades at the ripe age of 22. He’s the highest-scoring player in a single season in New Jersey history. He’s scored the most of any Devil in a short, five-game span. And the mind-blowing part is he has so much time left to do some much more.
The individual hardware is bound to start pouring in. It started last season when Hughes was nominated for the Lady Byng Trophy. However, it’s a new Hughes who isn’t in the game to be better known as the “nice guy on the ice.” He put the work in physically and mentally to be the best version of himself he could be this season.
“I feel really good with where my games at,” Hughes explained. “I put in a lot of work this summer. So mentally, I feel really excited and ready to go. Obviously, physically I put the work in.”
The former first-round pick in 2019 is proving he’s in the conversation as one of the best players in the NHL. He may not have received the hype of the same echelon as a Bedard or McDavid. However, Hughes is proving he’s an equal in terms of excitement about young talent in the NHL.
He’s not asking for the respect, but rather he’s demanding it with his performance on the ice. Hughes has shown thus far that he is the hype this season. It is, of course, only five games into the regular season. However, following his incredible 2022-23, there’s reason to believe we’re looking at the MVP of the league in Hughes as soon as this season.
“I think Jack is just such a big competitor,” Jesper Bratt explained in a recent interview on Got Yer Back Podcast. “He wants to be the superstar and he works for it. He has that swag and grit that we need on the team. That’s kind of what you need to be at that level. He wants to have the attention, he wants to have the media, and he wants to be a superstar player. I think we’re gonna see more of that going forward. You see every game he plays, he’s a difference maker for us every time he’s on the ice.”