Luke Hughes is a Key Part of Michigan’s Success | PROPSECT WATCH

Luke Hughes is a Key Part of Michigan’s Success | PROPSECT WATCH

The 19-year-old defenseman and his University of Michigan teammates, a group that also includes Devils prospects Seamus Casey and Ethan Edwards, are on a roll as the college season begins. One of Michigan’s thoroughbreds, Hughes’ recent four-goal game against Penn State completed a comeback and propelled the Wolverines to sixth in the national standings.

“Since the weekend (after returning from World Juniors), the team has had a mission and Luke has been a big factor,” Devils development coach Eric Weinrich said, referring to a divided critical streak. in early January against Ohio State when Hughes helped the Wolverines pick up a key “pro-style” victory. “…he’s improved his game over the past three weekends and it couldn’t have come at a better time.”

Hughes needs little introduction. Fourth overall in the 2021 NHL Draft, Jack’s younger brother is forging his own path. In a recent phone conversation, it was agreed that Luke’s plans beyond this current college season need not be discussed. They will be revealed in due course. But Hughes had a lot to say about how his season and his time with the Devils organization has been going so far.

“I think we’ve had a good season so far (but) there have been injuries and stuff like that,” Hughes said, citing various roster teammates, including team manager Jacob Truscott. (Vancouver).

Weinrich is a particularly interested observer. The longtime NHL defenseman continues to work closely with Hughes and has expanded his game upside over the past month.

“Offensively, he can impact the game every shift,” Weinrich said, “one of the things we’ve talked about all season is his two-way play and how he can still impact the game. the game with the puck while being a responsible defenseman.”

For his part, Hughes is confident he is heading in the right direction. Listing a series of technical terms that would make a hockey purist blush, he says it’s all about natural growth and good execution.

“I’ve always been able to use my legs and now I’m (better and better) using my mind,” Hughes said, pointing out that it wasn’t so much about deliberate and conscious changes, but rather instinctive ones. .

For all the hype surrounding Hughes (and his brothers), there have been a few speed bumps. For starters, there’s considerable pressure following older brothers who established themselves as elite NHL players shortly after being high picks. Then Luke was injured two years ago and missed the U18 World Cup in Dallas. The USA captain at the most recent World Juniors, the Americans lost an unlucky semi-final to eventual gold medalists Canada. The United States bounced back in their next game to leave Halifax with the bronze medal after a wild 8-7 victory in overtime.

Last year, the Wolverines lost in OT in the Frozen Four semifinals to eventual champions, the University of Denver Pioneers. The obvious objective is to go one step further this year. Whatever happens, the Wolverines are doing it with a new (interim) head coach, Brandon Naurato, who replaced Mel Pearson this summer. The move was another setback that Hughes took in stride.

“(Brandon Naurato) has been brilliant, I think he deserves the (permanent) job,” Hughes said. “But for me, there hasn’t been a big difference.”

Naturally, Devils fans are excited to know when Hughes will arrive in Newark. Anyone who witnessed the best reel goals and jaw-dropping skills could walk away with nothing but excitement.

But the NHL is a different animal from college hockey or playing teenagers at World Juniors. No matter how well a prospect can play against his cohort, you have to choose your places in the NHL. It’s something the Wolverines coaching staff and the Devils development team have been working on with Hughes.

“He’s slowly learning to pick his spots, to use his ability and his energy at both ends of the ice,” Weinrich said, adding that his recent four-goal game was largely due to smart plays rather than tricks. senseless mad races. to the ice cream.

All of that isn’t to say that Hughes’ impressive offensive skills don’t translate perfectly well when he makes the jump.

“Luke is a very nice, respectful lad who has a real competitive side,” Weinrich said, “He’s tough on himself in a good way to be the best player every night… it’s great to see that development in him.”

Luke, of course, is the youngest of Ellen and Jim Hughes’ three prolific puckster boys. First Quinn, followed soon after by Jack and now Luke, all had star quality as young children following their father to the Toronto rink, where Jim worked in operations/development roles with the Maple Leafs.

The bond remains strong even though distance has made communication more digital than in person. Luke has a vested interest in Jack’s breakout year, but also in the way the Devils play.

“We talk all the time, the three of us just had a FaceTime call (and) I’m watching all the Devils games I can,” adding later in the conversation that Jim remains a keen observer of the three boys’ games. .

“Jack is having a great year and so is the team, I think it’s been great.”

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