There’s a picture in Jack Hughes’ bed room of Pavel Datsyuk, captioned, “To Jack, see you in NHL!”
Datsyuk, the former Detroit Red Wings star, knew what he was writing.
Jack Hughes has been the favorite to go first overall in the 2019 NHL entry draft for more than a year, the 17-year-old middle child in a family of hockey phenoms. He’s a "generational-type" forward who draws comparisons to Patrick Kane and a self-assured teenager who's grounded by his family even though some project him to impact the league by 2020.
The Red Wings, and the rest of the NHL, would be fortunate to win the right to select him as he'd accelerate a rebuild and be a potential franchise cornerstone. The Ottawa Senators, Red Wings and Los Angeles Kings lead the "race" for last place in the NHL, giving them those teams the best chance to land the No. 1 pick in the draft lottery. (The Colorado Avalanche hold the Senators' first-round pick.) The last-place team has a 18.5% chance of getting the No. 1 pick.
Red Wings personnel have scouted Hughes heavily, an easy task with him playing for the Plymouth-based USA Hockey National Team Development Program in suburban Detroit.
“I’ve watched him play four or five college teams this year, play against guys who are three or four years older than him and just physically bigger and more mature,” said Kris Draper, Red Wings assistant to the general manager. “They come after him but I’ve yet to see Jack Hughes back down. He’s a real competitive kid. He wants the puck.
“To me, one of the most impressive things is he is an undersized forward, but he is dynamic on his edges. His quickness, his stops and starts, his change of direction off the rush — he has the ability to create time and space for himself. And then he just knows how to slide the puck. He has that knack of where to put the puck to get it back.”
Hughes put up 116 points last season, starting out with the NTDP's Under-17 team before being promoted to the Under-18 team.