Monarchs, UNH: Top prospect’s dad coached in Manchester, mom starred in Durham.
Jack Hughes is a name many are mentioning as the likely first pick in this year’s NHL Entry Draft, which will be held Friday (first round) and Saturday (rounds 2-7) at Rogers Arena in Vancouver.
Hughes, 18, is a 5-foot-10, 170-pound center who spent last season with the U.S. National Team Development Program (USNTDP). He’s not a New Hampshire resident, but he does have strong New Hampshire ties:
• His father, Jim Hughes, is a former captain at Providence College who served as an assistant coach with the AHL’s Manchester Monarchs for two years before he was promoted to head coach for the 2005-06 season.
• His mother, Ellen Weinberg-Hughes, played ice hockey, lacrosse, and soccer at the University of New Hampshire and was inducted into the UNH Athletics Hall of Fame in 2012. She also played for the United States women’s national hockey team, and won a silver medal at the 1992 World Championships.
• His younger brother, Luke, was born in Manchester and has committed to play hockey at the University of Michigan.
• Teddy Doherty, Jack’s cousin, skated for the Manchester Monarchs during the 2016-17 season.
Hughes had 112 points (34 goals) in 50 games with the U.S National Development Team last season, and established a USNTDP record by collecting 228 points in two seasons. If he doesn’t go with the No. 1 pick in the draft (the New Jersey Devils have the first selection) 6-foot-2, 194-pound wing Kaapo Kakko most likely will. Hughes is the NHL Central’s Scouting Service’s No. 1 prospect among North American skaters (non-goalies), and NHL Central Scouting has Kakko rated No. 1 among European skaters. Kakko played in Finland’s top professional league last season.
“Every year one and two (draft prospects) are competing with one another,” Hughes told the media at last month’s NHL Draft Combine. “I know (Kakko) had a great year. I think we’ll be linked to each other for a lot of years with the Rangers (who have the No. 2 pick) and Devils right there. I’m excited and I think it’s been a good year for both of us.”
Bedford resident Alex Steeves could be taken late in the draft. Steeves, a 5-foot-10, 184-pound forward who collected seven goals and two assists in 39 games at Notre Dame last season, is ranked No. 211 among North American skaters, down from No. 124 in the Central Scouting Service’s midterm rankings.
His older brother, Matt, also plays for Notre Dame. Matt will be a junior next season, Alex a sophomore.
“Two different players too, totally,” Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson told the Union Leader when Notre Dame played in the NCAA Northeast Regional at SNHU Arena in March. “Matt’s a physical guy. Intense. And Alex has got the skill level. Both great kids.”
Alex Steeves skated for the New Hampshire Junior Monarchs from 2014 to 2016. He described himself as a “high energy player” who is solid in his own end of the ice.
Forward Jackson Pierson, who played in 29 games as a freshman at UNH last season, and 2020 UNH commit Jack Ring, could also hear their name called in Vancouver this weekend. Ring, a 6-foot-3, 180-pound forward, was a defenseman for most of his career, but moved to forward last season with the Boston Advantage U18 team in the Tier 1 Elite Hockey League.
Centers Arlo Merritt and Tomas Mazura, both of whom played for Kimball Union Academy in Meriden last season, have been mentioned as possible draft selections as well. Central Scouting has Mazura and Merritt ranked at No. 131 and 144 among North American skaters, respectively.