New Jersey Devils NCAA Prospect Update: Luke Hughes Compared

NCAA SPOTLIGHT: LUKE HUGHES COMPARED

Last month, the Athletic’s Corey Pronman ran a rewrite of the class of 2021, bringing Luke Hughes to the top as the only scheduled NHL All-Star. [The Athletic $] Last summer, Scott Wheeler, also of Athletic, ranked Luke Hughes as the second best NHL prospect. [The Athletic $] The Hockey Writers’ Peter Baracchini was a little more backwards, ranking Luke Hughes at No. 8, but most of the players in the top 7 are already in the NHL. [TheHockeyWriters]

So what caused Luke Hughes to rise on various prospect lists? Let’s take a look at some comparisons. The following chart ranks Hughes alongside former NCAA defensemen on points per game in their freshman and sophomore seasons:

A few thoughts immediately come to mind:

  • Yes, despite the age disadvantage, Luke Hughes sits between the last two Norris Trophy winners at the top of this list and has every right to show off his older brother Quinn.
  • No, that doesn’t guarantee Luke Hughes will win a Norris, although it certainly is possible one day.
  • Yes, Luke Hughes has an absurdly high ceiling should he reach his full potential in the NHL, and Devils fans should be really excited about that.

What’s even more impressive is that Luke Hughes is a late birthday, putting him at a significant age disadvantage compared to others in the table. For example, Cale Makar, who celebrated his birthday in October, was 19 just before the start of his freshman campaign in 2017 and was playing his second season at the age of 20. In comparison, Hughes played his entire freshman season as an 18-year-old and just turned 19 two months ago. So Hughes has a better points average per game than Cale Makar so far, despite being a year younger than Makar when he was in the NCAA.

Kind of a conclusion

Whether Luke Hughes will end up high, middle, or bottom on any NHL list of players after all these careers remains to be seen. Cale Makar is a Norris winner and one of, if not the, best defenseman currently playing in the NHL. It’s far too early to know if Luke Hughes will even come close to reaching that elite level in his prime. NCAA production doesn’t always translate to future NHL production.

However, Luke Hughes’ first two (and probably only) NCAA seasons compare very well to Makar and other top NHL defensemen. That makes it all the more impressive that Hughes is making it a year behind most. Given that skating is one of the toughest challenges for prospects to master in order to reach their full potential, and that Luke Hughes is already an elite skater, Devils fans should continue to take comfort. While it’s impossible to know where Hughes will end up, one thing is certain: Luke Hughes has an almost limitless ceiling. It will be exciting to see if he achieves it in the years to come.

The plan appears to be to bring Hughes in at the end of the University of Michigan season so Devils fans won’t have to wait long to see Luke skate in red and black with his brother Jack. The prospect of adding a player of Luke’s potential to a roster that has climbed as high as the Devils this year makes this a great time to be a Devils fan.

NCAA UPDATE

*This chart was generated on Friday and therefore does not include last weekend’s games.

FORWARD

Although Patrick Moynihan hasn’t been putting up big numbers this season, he has been scoring timely goals for Providence. Three of the senior’s four goals were game winners and all four were on the power play. As a senior, Moynihan will be looking for his ELC at the end of the season as a two-way roleplayer known for his high-end defensive play and playing on special teams. I would expect Moynihan to be signed by either the Devils or another team looking for depth because of this.

After some visa issues, Samu Salminen is gearing up for his season at the University of Connecticut. Here’s a look at Samu Salminen’s first NCAA goal.

Artem Schlaine’s game has started after he transferred to Northern Michigan to play for the Wildcats. Schlaine has nearly scored Pt/g points this season and increased his NHLe by 10 to 25. Schlaine’s offense has not gone unnoticed. NHL.com’s Peter Robinson recently wrote this article about Schlaine’s rise and what he still needs to do to earn a contract with the Devils. [NHL.com] It’s a good read for those who want to learn more about Schlaine.

Similar to Moynihan, Schlaine also scores goals at the right time. Cue to 2:19 of the highlights below to see Schlaine’s game-winning goal that broke a goalless tie against BSU with less than two minutes remaining on 11 November.

DEFENSE

The way Luke Hughes spent his freshman season, Seamus turns Casey’s heads. As of Friday night, the former second-round pick led all NCAA freshman defenders this season by 12 points (he extended that lead to 14 points after notching two assists this weekend) and is already drawing offensive comparisons in some circles OwenPower. [Michigan Daily]. The Devils seem to have found another gem in the backend in Casey and it will be interesting to see how he develops.

According to Michigan Daily’s Noah Kingley, Casey has been somewhat protected so far this season alongside shutdown defenseman Steve Holtz. [Michigan Daily] Still, Casey seems to be doing well enough as a newcomer on the defensive end. Here’s one of Casey’s goals against Windsor, the second goal on his first multi-goal night in the Big Ten.

Ethan Edwards suffered a high ankle sprain that kept him off the lineup early in the season. Since recovering, LHD, 20, has 2 points in 9 games for Michigan. According to Michigan Daily’s John Tondura, Edwards was “a little nervous” about his return. [Michigan Daily] Expect Edwards to improve as he adjusts back to hockey after injury.

Not much remains to be said about the rise of Luke Hughes, the spotlight of this week’s article, who is still scoring a point per game clip and circling his opponents. Feel free to drool over these ridiculous spin moves that embarrassed Montreal Canadian Rhett Pitlick.

Or check out this effortless take-home smooth skate on the backcheck and write in the comments if that reminds you of anyone.

While the offensive numbers weren’t there for Viktor Hurtig after a delayed start to his season for Michigan State, for those taking solace in that statistic, he led all defenders on the team at +7 ahead of this weekend’s games.

Charlie Leddy and Case McCarthy are both shutdown defenders who will need to work on their skating and foot speed if they want to make the leap into professional hockey. Leddy is known for his high defensive IQ and McCarthy for his physicality. Neither is expected to do much offensively at the higher levels, but as Jonas Siegenthaler proves, shutdown defenders still play an important role in today’s NHL if they have elite defensive IQ and top-notch positioning and in the able to play and skate at a high level.

As a freshman, Leddy’s college career is just beginning and given his ability to read and anticipate games, he likely has the higher ceiling of the two if his skating improves to where it needs to be to play in the NHL. For his part, McCarthy has taken on a small managerial role as assistant captain during his senior year. With ex-Devil Jay Pandolfo coaching the Terriers this season, management should have a very good view of McCarthy’s progress when deciding whether to offer the injured defender an ELC this summer.

GOALIE

Cole Brady has put up respectable numbers in a platooning role with undrafted second Luke Pavicich, thanks in large part to a 32 save shutout in a 7-0 win over Union on Oct. 22. Brady’s GAA and SV% have both improved slightly since joining UMass after two seasons for Arizona State. However, Pavicich has looked even stronger with a 4-3-1 record, 2.64 GAA and .920 SV%, so Brady will need to capitalize on his starts if he wants to gain more time.

NCAA PROSPECTUS OF THE MONTH

This was a tough decision between Luke Hughes, Seamus Casey and Artem Schlaine, who are all making great starts to their seasons, but in a close scrum the newcomer wins. Stockhahn, Seamus Casey. Keep it up.

AROUND THE POOL

  • The Utica Comets shared last weekend’s games. On Friday night, Nico Daws returned to make 24 saves in a 3-2 win. Jack Dugan (2), Nikita Ohotiuk (1) and Tyce Thompson (3) scored for the Comets. Reilly Walsh had two assists. On Saturday night, Utica lost 3-2 to Rochester with Daws in the net. Brian Pinho (8) and Nick Hutchinson (2) scored for the Comets. Brian Halonen stayed hot over the weekend, with one assist in each game taking his point streak to four. [TheAhl.com]
  • As I speculated last week, Utica Comet Mason Geertsen was suspended for six games after he left the bench during a Nov. 12 altercation with Syracuse Crunch. [TheAhl.com]
  • Two young Devils talents competed in last week’s U20 Five Nations Tournament. Topias Vilen continued his attacking growth with one goal and two assists for unbeaten Finland. According to Elite Prospects, Vilen now has five points in six international competitions this year. Teufel’s contender Petr Hauser also scored once in three games for the Czech Republic. [NationalTeamsofIceHockey]
  • The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler speculates that Devils prospects Tyler Brennan, Luke Hughes, Topias Vilen and Samu Salminen will likely make their respective World Juniors teams, with Seamus Casey also set to be in the mix. [The Athletic $]
  • Nikita Popugaev never seems to be able to stay in one place for long.
  • Chase Stillman had a pretty good Friday night for the Peterborough Petes with five points, including four goals and a natural hat trick. (More about him next week)

FINAL THOUGHTS

What are your thoughts on the development of Luke Hughes and Seamus Casey? Should the Devils sign seniors Case McCarthy and Patrick Moynihan after the season ends? Has Artem Schlaine arrived? Let us know what you think about her or other Devils prospects in the comments.

Next week: An update on the Devils’ prospects for the Canadian Juniors, with a focus on former first-round pick Chase Stillman’s big five-point night and his progression in the OHL.

Source