A milestone night for Hughes brothers could be one marked in Devils history down road

New Jersey Devils center Jack Hughes (86) celebrates with the fans after scoring against the Columbus Blue Jackets during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, April 6, 2023, in Newark, N.J.
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

NEWARK — Perhaps Tuesday’s game between the Buffalo Sabres and New Jersey Devils will be looked back upon as one of the significant moments in the Devils’ history. 

There of course was the home-ice clinching victory, the franchise record for most wins in a season, and of course there was the Hughes brothers. And that may be what makes the night so significant above it all. 

With both Hughes on the ice, it was a glimpse into the future of the Devils as their current young star, Jack Hughes, set the franchise record for most points in a season (97) on his team-leading 43rd goal of the year. While a future star, Luke Hughes, appeared in his first NHL game logging 11:15 of ice time. 

It’s no secret how important Jack Hughes has been to the Devils this season and at 21 years old, he’ll be a key cog to the behemoth that general manager Ray Shero has been building in New Jersey for years to come. The Devils’ 51-win, 110-point season is the largest turnaround by a team in NHL history and if the Devils’ ship continues to go in the right direction they could be a power in the Metropolitan Division for quite some time.

Which brings us back to Tuesday night as Jack and Luke Hughes took the ice together for the first time in an NHL game.  Jack Hughes has had, as his brother Luke put it, “a hell of a year” setting career highs in goals, assists and points. 

Add the fact that now Jack Hughe’s name is etched in the franchise record books only cements his importance to the organization even further. 

“I’m really excited that it happened in front of the home crowd,” Jack Hughes said of the milestone. “The boys were really excited for me. It just shows how much team success we’ve had this year. It’s great for myself. It’s great for the team. It’s really good for the fans. I know they were pretty pumped for me.”

Coincidentally, it was the second milestone that has come with one of his brothers on the ice. Hughes scored his first career NHL goal on Nov. 1, 2019, against his brother Quinn and the Vancouver Canucks. 

Jack Hughes called Tuesday’s milestone better than the first one since he was eight games into his career and feeling the need to score back then.

“Hopefully I break some more records with Luke around. … Obviously it’s funny how it worked out,” Jack Hughes said. 

FILE – Michigan’s Luke Hughes skates against Colgate during an NCAA hockey game on Friday, March 24, 2023 Allentown, Pa.AP Photo/Jason E. Miczek, File

If all goes according to plan, then there should be more moments like Tuesday’s to come for the two Hughes brothers in New Jersey.  The younger Hughes brother was poised and didn’t look out of place in his nearly 12 minutes of play against the Buffalo Sabres. 

He also registered two blocks, a hit and a takeaway during his time on the ice and earned the praise of  Jack Hughes and head coach Lindy Ruff. 

“It’s super-fast out there. The biggest thing is how intense you have to be to play out there,” Luke Hughes said. “I think I raised my intensity level throughout the game. Really killed plays, used my skating and my hockey sense to kill plays and find outlets.”

Luke Hughes had spent the previous two seasons playing college hockey at the University of Michigan and signed his entry-level deal after Michigan was knocked out of the Frozen Four. 

Ruff hinted that the younger Hughes could get into some more games this season and that they were still deciding some roster decisions for Thursday’s season finale against Washington. Jack Hughes, who joked that his younger brother had received louder cheers than he did during introductions, predicted big things to come.

“I’m so proud of him. I think they eased him into the game tonight, but everyone knows how special of a player he’ll be,” Jack Hughes said. “When we’re competing for Cups the next couple of years and Luke’s 21-22, he’s going to be a horse for us. We’re really looking forward to Luke.”

He later added: “Skys the limit for him and now we don’t know where he’ll go. He could be one of the best D in the league in a few years, so that’s what we’re expecting him to be around here.” 

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