Jack Hughes breakout season ends after Devils pull plug (MCL sprain)

Jack Hughes
Apr 3, 2022; Newark, New Jersey, USA; New Jersey Devils center Jack Hughes (86) leaves the ice after being hit by New York Islanders right wing Oliver Wahlstrom (not shown) during the second period at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Jack Hughes of the New Jersey Devils was enjoying a breakout season, despite suffering a dislocated shoulder and a positive COVID test that cost him time. The former first overall draft pick in 2019 was averaging 1.14 points per game in his third NHL season and finally hit the expectations that comes with the high selection.

Unfortunately, Hughes will sit out the remainder of season after the center suffered a left knee injury, the Devils announced Tuesday night.

Hughes left Sunday’s game against the New York Islanders and was found to have a “low grade MCL sprain,” per the team.

“Given the timing, he will be held out of game action for the rest of the season. Jack will begin his motion rehab and conditioning immediately,” the Devils said in a news release.

Jack Hughes’ breakout season ends early

Entering Tuesday’s game against the New York Rangers, New Jersey (24-39-6, 54 points) already had been eliminated from the playoffs and has 13 games to go. The Devils are in last place in the Metropolitan Division and lost to their rivals 3-1 in the season-finale.

All things considered, risking any additional damage to his knee when there’s no postseason hopes makes little sense.

“It’s bad we are losing him, but the good news is the injury is — it could have been a lot worse,” head coach Lindy Ruff said. “We’re going to definitely miss him, but other guys are going to get opportunities.”

Hughes, who turns 21 next month, finished the season with career highs of 26 goals and 30 assists in just 49 games played.

Jack Hughes only going up from here

jack hughes
Dec 31, 2021; Newark, New Jersey, USA; New Jersey Devils center Jack Hughes (86) celebrates his game winning goal against the Edmonton Oilers during overtime at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

This has been a trying season for the young star. in New Jersey’s 4-2 win against the expansion Seattle Kraken on Oct. 19 he suffered a shoulder injury that caused him to miss six weeks.

Hughes returned from that ailment to make his first NHL All-Star Game. He also signed an eight-year, $64 million extension — which begins next season — with the Devils in November.

“I’m so excited to sign this deal for myself and for my family,” Hughes said. “I love being in New Jersey, and I love playing in New Jersey. I wouldn’t want to play anywhere else, and we are really building something special.”

The Devils knew they were drafting a potential superstar back in June of 2019, and his development has gone according to plan. Next season, there’s only one place for Hughes to go and that is up.

“I think the growth of his game has been on a real good scale,” Devils coach Lindy Ruff said of Hughes. “He’s determined to be a player that can be counted on away from the puck to be responsible. And once he’s had the puck, I don’t know if you can describe some nights the growth he’s had, the amount of time he has the puck and what he does with it. Creates his own chances, creates chances for the players that he’s with. Every night he’s in on the offense.”

NHL.com

–Field Level Media contributed to this report.