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Devils, Hughes sign ELC

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Luke Hughes signs 3-year entry level contract, joins Devils

No. 4 pick in 2021 NHL Draft to be teammate of brother Jack, won't play at Bruins

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer
 1:05 PM

Luke Hughes signed a three-year entry-level contract with the New Jersey Devils on Saturday and is expected to join older brother Jack Hughes with the team before it visits the Boston Bruins at TD Garden on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; ABC, ESPN+, SN NOW).


The 19-year-old defenseman will not play against the Bruins; he could make his NHL debut when New Jersey hosts the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday,

Hughes, selected by the Devils with the No. 4 pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, turned pro after two seasons at the University of Michigan.


The Wolverines' season ended with a 5-2 loss to Quinnipiac University in the NCAA Frozen Four semifinals on Thursday.


Luke Hughes said he is looking forward to playing with Jack, who is in his fourth NHL season after being selected by New Jersey with the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft. Jack was present when Luke signed his contract.


"It's been a long time coming," Luke Hughes said Saturday. "It's been a dream of mine since I was a little kid and do it with my brother in the room and it's pretty special ... I'm really excited to be here.

"I think it's pretty cool just being out on the ice with him ... I think it's been awesome [the way] the guys have welcomed me nicely." 


Hughes had 87 points (27 goals, 60 assists) in 80 games during his two seasons with Michigan. He had 48 points (10 goals, 38 assists) in 39 games as a sophomore this season to help the Wolverines go 26-12-3 and reach the Frozen Four for the second straight season.


After being selected to the NCAA All-America Second Team and All-Big Ten Second Team and being named Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Year last season, Hughes was selected to the All-Big Ten First Team this season.


"I mean, it was a special two years with a lot of special people," he said. "I really enjoyed my time there. The university is unbelievable, the culture and a hockey program, the history, it's just such an awesome program. it's been a great two years."


But Hughes said he believes after two years with Michigan, he is ready to make the next step to the NHL with the Devils.


"Two years (in college) has been good for me," he said. "It was good for guys like [Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar]. I kind of think that's the path."



Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald told Catherine Bogart of the Devils website that neither New Jersey nor Hughes wanted to wait to sign the contract.


"There really was no better time to do it," Fitzgerald said. "He was eager to do it as well. We thought we'd wait a couple days.


Let him get settled back in Michigan and then get him on a plane and get him into New Jersey early in the week, but he was so eager to do it. We were trying to get flights at like 1:30 in the morning on Friday morning. But we're just glad it's here. Now we have our hands on and now we can mold him and develop him into the player we know he can be.


"He knows the situation we're in right now. Great situation that we're trying to get home ice in the playoffs, first round anyways. ... I'd like to think that in the next couple games, there's a chance we see Luke Hughes and give some guys a rest. ... But again, most important thing right now for us is to stay focused and try to get that home ice."


Hobey Baker Award winner and Michigan teammate Adam Fantilli said he believes Hughes is ready for the NHL.


"Absolutely," Fantilli said. "I mean, he's a special player. He's a special talent. The way he skates is pretty crazy. It's pretty effortless how fast he can get around guys and how fast he can transition the puck. He's really good on the power play. I think his goal production didn't show how well he was been playing; his point production has been great but I think he should have so many more goals based on what he's created. 


"He's a great kid; I loved being around him. I think with his talent and then how he skates and how he thinks the game, he should be ready for the NHL by the end of our season."

Michigan coach Brandon Naurato has seen Hughes' playmaking ability at both ends of the ice.


"I would say Luke's grown a ton," Naurato said. "I think first and foremost as a leader, we all know what he can do with the puck, even from the first half of his freshman year, until now, Luke's always been unbelievable with his physical skills of being reactionary in regards to breaking other individual players down.


I think he has more of a plan with what he's doing now and reading cues, and instead of just seeing what happens and making the decision, he's got a plan in place to beat a guy left, to go right. 


"And then just as overall defending, he's always been a good defender. I think he's becoming an elite defender and using his physical attributes like his skating just to close time and space and kill plays as quickly as possible."


Hughes said there were several areas he improved on this season.


"I think I just tried to get better at everything," he said. "I managed my shifts and managed my game really well this year, playing hard in the 'D' zone. Try to get it out, use my exits and entries as quickly as possible and then do my thing on the other side. I think it was getting more mature, getting bigger and stronger and faster."


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