Photo by Rena Laverty
For Jack Hughes, it seemed like hockey was part of his daily vocabulary since before he could even talk. After his success this season on the ice, it’s easy to see why he loves the sport so much.
“Hockey was in my blood,” said Hughes. “I think I was born to be a hockey player. I spent so many hours skating and playing mini-sticks, I think it was just meant to be.
“I started skating around 2 and playing on the outdoor rinks. I really didn’t start playing organized hockey until I was about 5.”
Hughes, along with his older brother Quinn and younger brother Luke, spent numerous hours playing hockey in the house. The trio always seemed to be playing or watching the sport.
“It was unbelievable,” said Jack, on playing with his brothers. “It wasn’t always just the three of us — we usually would have friends over and would have big mini-sticks games. It was always hockey, hockey, hockey in my house. We would have Hockey Night in Canada on, or playing at the outdoor rinks. We are all very competitive and just love the game.”
It also helps Hughes that his dad Jim played college hockey at Providence College and his mom Ellen was a three-sport hall-of-famer at the University of New Hampshire and also played hockey for Team USA. He credits their influence as a big part of his success.
“They have been a part of everything,” said Hughes. “The biggest thing now is just supporting me. They try and come to all of my games and they have supported me through everything. They are always calling me when I am overseas. They are always right there for me — every step of the way.”
After being born in Orlando, Florida, Hughes spent part of his childhood in Toronto. When it came to picking his next step in his hockey journey, he had some big footsteps to follow into USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program. Quinn spent two years with the NTDP and was the 7th overall pick in the 2018 National Hockey League Entry Draft.
“I know he had a great experience here, but it was more of a feel for me,” Jack said. “He really didn’t tell me anything that made me want to come here. He is different than me. He had his own path here and obviously, I have my own path. He did tell me when I went to the top 40 game to be myself and play my game and you should do great.”
Favorite NHL Team
Toronto Maple Leafs
Favorite NHL Player
Favorite Musical Artist
Favorite Netflix Binge
Favorite Video Game
Favorite Home-Cooked Meal
Steak and rice
Hughes, who is a 5-foot-10, 166-pound forward, says his game grew tremendously during his first year with the NTDP.
“It grew a ton for sure [over the year]. Spending hours in the shooting room, hours on the ice playing and practicing and thinking about hockey 24/7. My game definitely took off and I believe that I can do better next year,” he said.
To put it into perspective, Hughes finished with 40 goals and 116 points across time spent with both the Under-17 and Under-18 teams. The 116 points ranks second all-time in NTDP history. In United States Hockey League play only, he led all rookies in points during the regular season with 54 in 27 games en route to earning USA Hockey’s Dave Tyler Junior Player of the Year Award.
In addition, he led both the Under-17 World Challenge (15 points) and the Under-18 World Championship (12 points) in scoring. In doing so, he became the first player in history to accomplish that feat.
Spending hours in the shooting room, hours on the ice playing and practicing and thinking about hockey 24/7. My game definitely took off and I believe that I can do better next year,
“It’s really cool and special of course but in tournaments, it’s all about the team,” Hughes said. “Of course, if we are going to win, then I know I have to produce because that is what the team relies on me for each game. That is my game — I need to produce and play really well. I think that things should turn out if I continue to do that. In all honesty, in short tournaments like that, points come and go, but gold medals stay forever.”
Hughes was part of the U18 team that won silver at the 2018 Under-18 World Championships. He knows what he can take away from that experience and apply it to next year during his U18 season.
“We had five players on that team — it might be the most U17s to ever play at the worlds,” said Hughes. “Going into next year, we need to know that it takes everyone. You cannot win a tournament with just two lines or four defensemen. Everyone has to chip in and has to put every ounce they have into the tournament. It’s long and tough. Injuries can happen. Sickness can happen. It’s really tough to maintain and we need everyone going.”
Hughes has plenty of memories from his first season with the NTDP. One special night stands out to him.
Photo by Rena Laverty
“There are just so many memories,” he said. “Coming to the rink every day and putting on the jersey is just so special. I would say at the U17 Challenge — it was unbelievable to play Canada, our rivals — in the championship game in front of 8,000 fans. Hoisting the trophy and winning the gold medal was really special.”
It’s also very special for him to wear the colors of his country. Of course, this stands out even more for Hughes in international competition.
“It’s so special to wear the jersey,” he said. “You dream as a kid to suit up for your country and play against the Swedes or the Finns or the Russians. Whatever the event — whether it is the U18 Words or the World Challenge or the Five Nations — you are playing against the best from that country. Anytime, you can play against them, it’s really special.”
One thing will not change for Hughes, and that is how much time, energy and effort he will put into his training this summer. He understands the importance of being prepared for next year.
“It’s the same thing I do every year,” he said. “I take training super seriously. I eat really well. I train really hard. I skate a lot. I get my good sleep. It’s a whole package for me.
“I’m just 17 years old and I’m playing the game I love. I get to come to the rink every day. I don’t worry about what other people say about me.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.