How Far Away is Luke Hughes?

New Jersey Devils fans are anxiously awaiting the arrival of Luke Hughes. Hughes, the younger brother of Devils star Jack Hughes, was drafted 4th overall by the Devils in the 2021 draft. 

Many fans are looking toward the future after this disappointing season. One crucial piece of that future is Luke Hughes. Hughes was a conscious top-5 prospect in last year’s draft and landed with the Devils fourth overall. 

Most view Hughes as the top prospect in the Devils’ system. Also, most view him as a top 20 prospect in the NHL. The 18-year-old lefty defenseman played at Michigan this past season, where he was named Big 10 Co-Freshman of the year. 

Early Success:

As a top-five pick in last year’s draft, it is no surprise that Hughes has had success in his young hockey career. Before playing at the University of Michigan, he was a star player in U.S. National Team Development Program. Hughes spent two years there, where he earned 62 points in 86 games. 

As a freshman at Michigan, Hughes had 17 goals and 22 assists over 41 games. Those numbers helped Michigan make it to the Frozen Four, where they lost 3-2 to eventual National Champions in the University of Denver. 

Hughes set the freshman record for goals and points at Michigan this past season. Luke Hughes has proven his talent against elite competition thus far in his career.

Additionally, Luke was named a Hobey Baker award finalist this past season. The best overall player in men’s college hockey wins this award each year. Being a finalist is a great honor and a rarity for a freshman defenseman. 

What is Next:

While Luke has been extremely successful thus far, the jump to the NHL is quite challenging. Hughes would likely benefit from another year in college because Michigan pumps out elite talent.

Most believe that Hughes will return to Michigan for his Sophomore season, yet most of the drafted players on the Wolverines are expected to move up to the league next year. Owen Power, Matty Berniers, (who has cracked the big club), and Kent Johnson are all expected to make the jump this upcoming season. Those three players were all sophomores last season. They got two years of experience in college, before deciding to jump to the league. 

While it makes the most sense for Hughes to go back to Michigan, there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding their program right now. Head Coach Mel Pearson’s contract expires at the end of April, and there are no guarantees that he will resign. We many of his former teammates jumping to the NHL, and uncertainty surrounding his head coach, could Luke leave college after just one season?

What to Expect:

Even with all the uncertainty, expect to see Luke Hughes in a Michigan uniform next season. Hughes will gain valuable experience next season, as he will assume a leadership position with several of his teammates leaving for the NHL. Hughes and goalie Erik Portillo are the only star players returning from last year. It will be valuable for Hughes to get the experience as a focal point for Michigan next season before he makes his leap to the pros. 

Luke’s development might suffer if he chooses to go straight to the NHL. A second year in college will help him refine some of his skills to be a better pro. Even with his great success as a freshman, Hughes will benefit from the extra time spent in college. 

Hopefully, Luke Hughes can be even more successful as a Sophomore in college. If that happens, we can expect to see Luke and Jack Hughes on the ice together in the 2023-2024 season. 

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