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Jack Hughes changes everything

April 22, 2019, 12:44 PM ET [1 Comments]
Todd Cordell
New Jersey Devils Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
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Beyond the fact an offensively-starved New Jersey Devils team will be adding an elite offensive talent for no cost, the great thing about bringing Jack Hughes into the mix is how much depth and flexibility he'll give the Devils.

A few weeks ago we would have considered them somewhat shallow at center. Nico Hischier is a star, of course, but Travis Zajac is on the downswing of his career and playing in the 2-hole was not ideal. Pavel Zacha's not ready for that responsibility, either, and he may never be.

After that, there wasn't much hope for a top-6 center besides perhaps Jesper Boqvist, who may end up best suited on the wing.

Now? Everything has changed.

Hischier is already a quality No. 1 center; Evolving-Hockey.com had him 33rd among *all* NHL forwards in Goals Above Replacement this season.

With Hughes, there's another high-end center playing behind him – at least for a couple of years, you'd think – who can help drive a line, create chances, and put up points.

That moves Zajac down to the 3-hole, which is perfect because he's not quite as productive as he once was but the defensive prowess is still there.

As frustrating as Pavel Zacha's offensive inconsistencies can be, I think we can all agree having him at 4C would be a pretty nice luxury.

There is still some work for Ray Shero to do, but you can *really* see the forward group coming together – simply because they're going to be set at center.

You can keep Hall and Nico together as the top duo. Hughes' play-driving, and playmaking, ability would nicely compliment Kyle Palmieri on the 2nd scoring line.

Zajac can stick with Blake Coleman on the defensive line and eat up a lot of the tough minutes while Zacha and Miles Wood, who have worked well together over the last two years (50.84 xGF%, 54.29 GF% across ~500 5v5 minutes), can form a nice depth duo and do a little bit at both ends.

With a couple more quality additions (perhaps Jesper Boqvist can be one), New Jersey's forward core can go from really bad to really good in the span of a few months.

I think Shero knows that, and I expect him to be aggressive in addressing it.

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