VANCOUVER, British Columbia — The New Jersey Devils selected American center Jack Hughes with the first pick in the NHL draft Friday night.

From Orlando, Florida, Hughes is the eighth American selected No. 1 and first since 2016, when the Toronto Maple Leafs chose Auston Matthews.

The 5-foot-10, 170-pound playmaking center was the NHL Central Scouting Bureau’s top-ranked North American prospect. Hughes was chosen ahead of Finland’s Kaapo Kakko, who was the top-ranked European prospect.

“Man, it’s a surreal feeling,” said Hughes, who had a lengthy dinner with Devils GM Ray Shero during the pre-draft combine in Buffalo this month. “I’ve said this like eight times already, but I’m pumped to be a Devil and I’m so excited.”

Hughes had 74 goals and 154 assists to set the USA Hockey National Team Development Program’s two-year record with 228 points in 110 games.

The Rangers followed by selecting Kakko. He’s a 6-foot-2 winger who helped Finland complete an international gold-medal sweep at the world championships, world juniors and under-18 tournament. He had 22 goals in the Finnish Elite League, the most by a draft-eligible player.


The Chicago Blackhawks, who jumped from 12th in the order to third following the draft lottery, went with size in selecting 6-4 center Kirby Dach out of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Colorado Avalanche GM Joe Sakic, who grew up in suburban Vancouver, received a big cheer from the crowd before announcing the fourth pick. He then drew an even louder cheer after selecting defenseman Bowen Byram, who played for Vancouver of the Western Hockey League.

Los Angeles rounded out the top five by selecting American center Alex Turcotte.

Boston used the 30th overall pick to select American forward John Beecher. The 6-3, 209-pound Beecher had 15 goals and 28 assists in 63 games with the U.S. developmental team this season.

The Bruins entered the draft with just two picks in the first four rounds. Barring a trade, the Bruins next pick at No. 92 during the third round Saturday.

Former Devils star goalie Martin Brodeur took the podium to announce the No. 1 selection.


Hughes comes from a hockey family. His father, Jim Hughes, coached at the professional level, and also served as the Toronto Maple Leafs’ director of player development. Jack Hughes credits the time he spent playing minor hockey in Toronto as helping spur his development.

A year ago, Hughes attended the NHL draft to watch his older brother, defenseman Quinn Hughes, be selected with the seventh pick by the Vancouver Canucks.

Canucks General Manager Jim Benning cracked a joke this week when asked if Quinn Hughes lobbied to have Vancouver attempt trading up from the 10th pick to first and draft his brother. “Yeah, I had conversations but they didn’t last long,” Benning said. “He’s a great player. I don’t expect him to be there at 10.”

This marked the second time the Devils have selected first. In 2017, New Jersey chose Switzerland’s Nico Hischier, who helped the Devils reach the playoffs in his rookie season. Injuries contributed to New Jersey taking a step back last season in which they finished 29th in the overall standings.

The Devils jumped up three spots in the draft order by winning the lottery in April.

With Hughes expected to make an immediate jump to the NHL next season, he has the potential of providing the Devils an even stronger presence up the middle, joining Hischier and Taylor Hall, the league’s 2018 MVP.


NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman opened the draft and was greeted by a traditional round of loud boos from the sold-out arena. Bettman then left the podium and waited for former Canucks stars Henrik and Daniel Sedin to join him on stage, where they were greeted to loud cheers.

The Sedin twins were selected second and third overall in the 1999 draft. Bettman then announced both players’ jerseys – Daniel wore No. 22 and Henrik, 33 – will be retired this season.

THE NHL salary cap for next season will be between $81.5 and $82 million, which is at least $1 million lower than initially projected, the Associated Press confirmed.

The figure was disclosed Friday by a person with direct knowledge of the situation to the AP on condition of anonymity because it hasn’t been formally finalized and isn’t expected to be released until Saturday. The Athletic first reported the figures.

Initial projections had the salary cap increasing to $83 million from $79.5 million last season. The cap is calculated on a percentage of league revenue from the previous season. It goes into effect once the NHL’s free-agency period opens July 1, which coincides with the league’s new year.

The lower-than-expected figure will place a pinch on teams already at or near the cap figure by restricting their ability to add or re-sign players.

The Winnipeg Jets, for example, are shedding contracts to make room to eventually re-sign forwards Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor. Winnipeg recently traded defenseman Jacob Trouba to the New York Rangers, who are at the other end of the cap spectrum with nearly $20 million in cap space available.

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