CMJ: The family mission of Luke Hughes


Luke Hughes has one last chance to do something his NHL brothers never did with the United States: win a gold medal at the World Junior Championship.

“We hope that happens, admitted the center of the New Jersey Devils Jack Hughes. We need a [médaille] World Juniors gold medal in the family home, so we’d love to see him bring it home. And that would be really special for Americans. »

quinn hughesa Vancouver Canucks defenseman, helped USA finish third in 2018 and second in 2019. Jack and Quinn were part of the 2019 edition.

Luke, who is in his second season at the University of Michigan, will do everything in his power to achieve his goals as he serves as captain of the American squad.

« That would be really ‘cool’ […], my father keeps all our memories and I think it would be great, mentioned the 19-year-old defender. But, more importantly, it goes beyond me and this team. We represent our country and our jersey, so it starts with building our identity, tightening the troops, learning the systems and improving ourselves every day. I’ll worry about the rest later. »

Hughes, selected fourth overall by the Devils in the 2021 draft, is focused on the task ahead heading into the 2023 World Junior Championship (WJC). He represented his country in the 2022 edition presented in August and had six points (one goal, five assists), ahead of the first of the Hughes brothers to score a goal during a WJC.

« There’s a lot of talk about his skating, but there’s also a lot to be said about his spirit, » said TSN director of scouting and former NHL general manager Craig Button. This ability to recognize that he can make a difference and that he wants to make a difference. He is quite a competitor, in addition to having incredible skills, and he wants to be the one who makes the difference in a game. That’s what star players do, and I see Luke Hughes as a star for the New Jersey Devils in the years to come. »

Reid Cashman, one of the United States’ assistant coaches who focuses on defense, says it didn’t take too long to figure out what kind of leadership Hughes wanted to bring.

« He made sure the Michigan guys didn’t just sit with the Michigan guys and the Minnesota guys didn’t just hang out with the Minnesota guys, » Cashman said. He made sure it was Team USA during meals. He asks questions, even though he probably already knows the answers, he makes sure the communication is good, everyone is helping each other and that we are all on the same page. Luke has a lot of influence. »

Hughes has 18 points (three goals, 15 assists) and a plus-6 differential in 20 games so far this season with the Wolverines. After being named one of 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Trophy, awarded to the NCAA Division I Most Valuable Player last season, when he finished the campaign as the league’s No. 1 defenseman with 39 points (17 goals, 22 assists) in 41 games, he should make the leap to the professionals at the end of this university season.

« Special player, special individual, » Wolverines interim coach Brandon Naurato said. He is learning to be a leader off the ice as a young player. I think he’s doing a better job of establishing a routine for himself by building good habits and he’s really enjoying his college experience. »

Naurato has seen improvements in their star defender since the start of the season.

« He reacted instinctively when he debuted, but he’s now gotten a lot better at having a plan in his game readings. Rather than just getting rid of a player, he takes option no 2 or No. 3, reported the coach. When he was crossing the blue line, he had something in mind and he only intended to do that. Now he has something in mind, but he reads the play and heeds the pressure, then he makes the next play based on what is presented to him instead of forcing it. »

His Michigan teammates, including defenseman Seamus Casey (Devils) and forward Rutger McGroarty (Winnipeg Jets), witnessed Hughes’ growing impact.

« His skating is in a class of his own, and he’s got the confidence and attitude on the ice, » Casey said. He can make any play and do it with confidence. »

« It’s happened a few times that Luke gets rid of the first opponent, then the second, and I’m just sitting there thinking I’m witnessing something really big, » McGroarty added.

Hughes should start the tournament on a pair completed by left-hander Jack Peart (Minnesota Wild).

“He knows what to expect, he already has the experience and he knows how it goes,” said Jack Hughes. But this is his last appearance at the World Juniors. This is not the kind of international tournament you will be able to return to play. This is the last time he’s eligible, so go take advantage and try to bring home a gold medal for the United States. »



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