How Does Jack Hughes’ Rookie Season Compare to Recent Top 5 Centers?

We have seen 46 games of the Jack Hughes era in New Jersey, and in that time span, the Devils have traded their best player (Taylor Hall), fired their head coach (John Hynes), and are sitting in the basement of the Eastern Conference with 50 points in 54 games. One would think that their most recent #1 pick would be a bright spot in these dark times, instead, he’s garnering bust labels with only 6 goals and 13 assists in his 46 games played so far this season.


We thought it would be interesting to compile the AB scores for all of the Centers drafted in the Top 5 of the NHL draft every year since 2008 rookie seasons. We used hockeydb’s draft results and determined who was drafted as a center based off of their list. However, there are some players on that list that have since been converted to a winger, we included them anyway in the table below (Note: DHY= Don’t have yet).

Steven Stamkos (+0.39) Nathan MacKinnon (+8.10) Auston Matthews (+4.89)
John Tavares (-2.32) Aleksander Barkov (+0.39) Pierre-Luc Dubois (+2.54)
Matt Duchene (+3.77) Elias Lindholm (-3.06) Nico Hischier (+8.38)
Tyler Seguin (-0.85) Sam Reinhart (+0.82) Nolan Patrick (+0.67)
Ryan Johansen (-2.56) Leon Draisaitl (+0.63) Elias Pettersson (+3.58)
Brayden Schenn (+0.87) Sam Bennett (+0.68) Barrett Hayton (DHY)
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (+0.66) Connor McDavid (+3.44) Jack Hughes (DHY)
Ryan Strome (-0.24) Jack Eichel (+0.06) Kirby Dach (DHY)
Alex Galchenyuk (+0.67) Dylan Strome (-0.54) Alex Turcotte (DHY)


As you can see from the table, of the 23 players we have data for, 10/23 of these players had below +1 but still positive AB scores in their rookie season. That isn’t horrible, it just isn’t the immediate impact all around that some of the other players on this list provided. 6/23 players ended up with negative AB scores, and 7/23 made that immediate impact and drastically affected the outlook of their respective teams and the league as a whole (McDavid, Matthews, Pettersson).


As far as Hughes is concerned, the talent is obviously there. He has shown flashes of brilliance this season such as when he and the Devils won a 1-0 game vs Quinn Hughes and the Vancouver Canucks on October 19th. In that game, Jack scored the game-winning goal as his first NHL goal in the first period. He also scored the game-winning goal in the shootout against the Senators on January 27th. We would like to tell Devils fans to not panic, Jack Hughes was the #1 pick for a reason and the more he plays the better he will get. It will be interesting to see what moves the Devils’ management group decides to make at the deadline to surround Hughes with talent in the short and long term. Much more to come.


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