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Season-ending injury puts damper on the rise of Jack Hughes

Season-ending injury puts damper on the rise of Jack Hughes

NEWARK, NJ - APRIL 03: Jack Hughes #86 of the New Jersey Devils on a knee after being hit by Oliver Wahlstrom #26 of the New York Islanders(not pictured) during the second period of the game against the New York Islanders on April 3, 2022 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. (Rich Graessle/Getty Images)

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It’s an overstatement to say that the rise of Jack Hughes is the lone bright spot in another dim season for the Devils. During the darker times, it likely feels that way for Devils fans, though. Another lost year for the Devils became grimmer, as the team announced that Jack Hughes suffered a season-ending knee injury.

To be specific, the Devils label Hughes’ injury as a “low-grade MCL sprain.” The release didn’t make any mention of surgery being needed. Instead, the Devils noted that Jack Hughes “will begin his motion rehab and conditioning immediately.”

Hughes suffered that injury during a collision with Islanders forward Oliver Wahlstrom.

Season-ending injury interrupts the rise of Jack Hughes, no-brainer for Devils

Let’s make this clear first. The Devils would’ve been immensely foolish to risk further injury to Jack Hughes by playing him through meaningless games.

(Don’t put it past some NHL teams to foolishly risk players’ health when they should, essentially, be tanking.)

That said, it adds to the larger bummer of this team’s season.

By just about any measure, Hughes was really affirming his status as the sort of talent you dream of when picking a player first overall (in Hughes’ case, 2019).

  • Hughes scored 26 goals, easily the best of his career. In fact, Hughes scored more goals (26 in 49 games played) than he generated in his first two seasons combined (18 goals).
  • Hughes’ 30 assists are also a career-high, and they nearly matched his 2020-21 point total of 31 in 56 games.
  • Plenty of outlets are taking notice of his ascendence. About a week ago, The Score’s John Matisz opined that Hughes is “accelerating into the superstar role once forecast for him.” The Athletic’s Shayna Goldman keyed-in on his even-strength goal-scoring in January. Almost cruelly, EP Rinkside’s Dimitri Filipovic lauded Jack Hughes as “must-watch television, and a legitimate star” just days ago.
  • Aside from maybe some granular gripes about improving defense, Hughes is coming along as hoped. Which doesn’t mean steadily. He’s made a huge (Hughes-speed?) leap. If you’re more of a visual learner, take a look at this promising Evolving Hockey Player card.

Very promising.

Sadly, now it’s over. Here’s hoping that this MCL issue doesn’t hinder his dynamic skating, even just early on next season. Most of all, let’s hope the Devils find the sort of supporting talent that will give fans much more to be happy about than Jack Hughes and a smattering of other positives.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.