This week, nearly 200 of the best teenage hockey players from five nations descended on northern British Columbia for Hockey Canada’s World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. It’s a tremendous event, in most cases the first major international tournament for skaters who will go on to form the backbone of the national teams for the globe’s major hockey powers. Even though the players are 16, or in a few cases 15, the speed and skill is outstanding. Two-thirds of the first-round picks in last summer’s NHL draft played in the 2015 tournament. For major-league scouts, it’s an early opportunity to get a look at the best prospects who are going to be available two years down the line. This year, there’s no doubt that Jack Hughes is the best of them. The Americans have sent some great players to the event in recent years. Jack Eichel went in 2013, putting up three points in five games for a team that finished third. Auston Matthews fared better the next year, with eight points in six games and a gold medal. Hughes compares favourably to both, especially in his work with the National Team Development Program generally and with his performance at this event. He has 11 points through five games, and this iteration of Team USA will finish no worse than second. This doesn’t necessarily mean Hughes will match the early careers of Eichel and Matthews. Colin White outscored Matthews by an order of magnitude at the 2014 tournament; Sonny Milano did the same to Eichel the year before. All are good players, but to do what Eichel and Matthews did, Hughes is going to need to have two monstrous development years between now and the 2019 NHL draft.