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Stu Cowan: Devils’ Jack Hughes puts on a show in win over Canadiens

No. 1 general choose on the 2019 NHL Draft scores a aim and provides two assists in New Jersey’s 4-2 pre-season victory on the Bell Centre.

The rebuilding Canadiens can acquire some inspiration from what the New Jersey Devils did final season.

After ending twenty eighth within the general NHL standings in 2021-22 with a 27-46-9 document, the Devils made a 49-point enchancment in 2022-23, ending third within the NHL standings with a 52-22-8 document.

“I feel that’s what we’re after,” Canadiens head coach Martin St. Louis stated about the way in which New Jersey rebuilt its staff following a 4-2 loss to the Devils within the preseason opener Monday night time on the Bell Centre. “It takes just a little time. It’s what you do with that point. We wish to be affected person, however we’re going to have aggressive endurance. We’re not simply going to attend for it to occur. However yeah, that’s what we’re chasing.”

Sadly for the Canadiens, they don’t have Jack Hughes.

The No. 1 general choose on the 2019 NHL Draft had a aim and two assists Monday night time. One in all his assists can be all around the spotlight reels after he made an end-to-end rush, together with a few dipsy-doodles, earlier than making a seeing-eye go to a wide-open Dawson Mercer. Joseph Gambardella and Simon Nemec additionally scored for the Devils. Joshua Roy and Josh Anderson scored for the Canadiens.

Final season, the 22-year-old Hughes led the Devils in scoring with 43-56-99 totals to complete twelfth in NHL scoring. Nick Suzuki led the Canadiens with 26-40-66 totals to rank 73rd within the NHL.

The Devils had 4 gamers final season with extra factors than Suzuki — Hughes, Nico Hischier (31-49-80), defenceman Dougie Hamilton (22-52-74) and Jesper Bratt (32-41-73). The Canadiens might want to discover much more offence in the event that they wish to comply with within the Devils’ skate strides. If Cole Caufield can keep wholesome this season that would definitely assist after he posted 26-10-36 totals in 46 video games final season earlier than struggling a season-ending shoulder damage that required surgical procedure.

Caufield and Hughes have been linemates with the U.S. Beneath-18 staff the season earlier than they have been each chosen within the first spherical of the 2019 NHL Draft. Hughes had 34-78-112 totals in 50 video games that season with the U.S. staff, whereas Caufield had 72-28-100 totals in 64 video games earlier than being drafted fifteenth general by the Canadiens.

Final season, the Devils ranked fourth within the NHL with 291 targets and had a plus-65 aim differential. The Canadiens ranked twenty sixth in targets with 232 and had a minus-75 aim differential.

The Devils had a split-squad roster on the Bell Centre Monday night time with a second sport in New Jersey that they received 6-0 over the Philadelphia Flyers.

The Canadiens had their final 4 first-round draft picks within the lineup — David Reinbacher (2023), Juraj Slafkovsky (2022), Logan Mailloux (2021) and Kaiden Guhle (2020). In addition they had Justin Barron and Alex Newhook, who have been each first-round picks of the Colorado Avalanche — in 2020 and 2019, respectively — earlier than they have been acquired by the Canadiens.

Mailloux was chasing Hughes all around the ice earlier than his highlight-reel help.

“You’ll be able to’t actually sustain with him,” stated Mailloux, who carried out properly for many of the sport for somebody taking part in for the primary time in a Canadiens uniform. “His edges are one thing else. I attempted to maintain up with him the one time and I acquired burned and ended up getting scored on. That was sort of a welcome to the NHL second, for positive.”

Slafkovsky, the No. 1 general choose by the Canadiens final yr, stated what impresses him most about Hughes is the way in which he sees the sport.

“He is aware of when to sluggish it down, when to make the play, when to only skate away and conceal someplace after which get the puck,” stated Slafkovsky, who had a sluggish begin in opposition to the Devils however performed significantly better within the final two intervals. “I really feel like he is aware of the place to be. He’s at all times on the proper place on the proper time.”

Whereas Slafkovsky doesn’t have Hughes’s talent set, he can draw some inspiration from the Devils star. Throughout his rookie season as an 18-year-old, Hughes had 7-14-21 totals in 61 video games. Final season, Slafkovsky had 4-6-10 totals in 39 video games as an 18-year-old earlier than struggling a season-ending knee damage.

“I have a look at him and I feel additionally he was saying he didn’t like his first season,” Slafkovsky stated. “After all, I didn’t like my first season. I’ve to step up. It’s a giant step, however I really feel prepared.”

In Hughes’s second season with the Devils, he had 11-20-31 totals in 56 video games.

Aggressive endurance, as St. Louis put it.

“They completed within the backside of the league for a few years,” Canadiens goalie Samuel Montembeault stated after stopping 16 of the 18 pictures he confronted within the first half of the sport in opposition to the Devils earlier than being changed by Jakub Dobes. “They drafted very properly and now they’re on their approach up. We acquired to do the identical factor and hold growing our younger gamers. I actually like the way in which the group goes.”

Sadly, the Canadiens don’t have Jack Hughes.

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