What’s the best way to gauge the potential of a top prospect for the NHL Draft? Is it the volume of praise heaped upon them during broadcasts? How high they're listed in mock drafts and rankings? How about using a bunch of stats and player comparisons, or debating whose 15-second highlights get the best engagement on social media?
Whichever method talent evaluators and fans are using to assess the 2019 class, it's all par for the course in the pre-draft season of any elite phenom, including American center Jack Hughes, a dizzying playmaker with hockey in his blood and the kind of jaw-dropping skill that scares opponents more than it amazes onlookers.
Hughes, the expected No. 1 pick this summer in Vancouver, is listed at 5-10, smaller in stature than recent first-overall predecessors.
When it comes to hockey, you’ll rarely see bigger athletes of any age look visibly intimidated by a smaller pivot stickhandling toward their direction. But the speed Hughes generates once he crosses center ice forces the most disciplined defenders to back off the blue line and allow him entry into the offensive zone.
Once inside, spectators are treated to his array of sharp pivots, pirouettes and jukes that make Hughes well worth the price of admission. His command of the puck and the ability to identify multiple scoring-chance options while moving at a frantic pace tires out static zone coverages, thus allowing Hughes to dart and weave virtually unchecked and unbridled.