Jack Hughes emerging as option for Team USA at Olympics

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You know, chances are that Auston Matthews will be Patrick Kane’s center for Team USA at the Olympics, and if not him, then likely Dylan Larkin, but do not go to sleep on the possibility of Jack Hughes emerging as a top-six force for the Yanks in Beijing. 

Of course, the overtime winner Friday night against the Blackhawks was a work of open-ice beauty in the three-on-three competition. And the spin move off which No. 86 scored his first of the night was about skill. But perhaps more noteworthy was seeing Hughes come away with the puck outnumbered two-on-one below the goal line just prior to the first one. 

Hughes between Kane and Chicago linemate Alex DeBrincat, perhaps? Or maybe the Devils’ 2019 first-overall will need a bit of muscle on one side, given that the tournament will be contested on NHL-regulation rinks. Perchance, maybe someone from across the river? 

Off last season, you would certainly be justified from omitting Chris Kreider from the likely candidates to make Team USA, with the final month representing the poorest stretch of the winger’s career. 

But No. 20, who seems to have a renewed purpose entering 2021-22 and scored a goal in each of his first two games for just the second time in his career, is as good as anyone in the NHL at power play net-front presence. And that should carry a fair amount of weight in the evaluation process. 

So you’re Tom Fitzgerald, GM, and you have the chance to acquire Jack Eichel. 

Jack Hughes
Jack Hughes
Getty Images

Are you interested if Nico Hischier is the featured piece of the package going the other way? 


The Rangers, absent Ryan Strome for COVID-related reasons, are really going with two fourth-line centers in Kevin Rooney and Greg McKegg to open a trip that starts with two games in three days in Montreal and Toronto? 

Maybe the hierarchy believes Morgan Barron needs to dominate the AHL for at least the short term in order to earn a promotion. If that is president-GM Chris Drury’s guiding philosophy, that is fine. 

But the fact the organization is in this predicament because of one health-related issue is evidence enough of the organization’s long-term and ongoing neglect in stocking the pipeline down the middle. 


Whispered into our ears by a savvy individual with keen insight into the dynamics of the league (and that description eliminates scads of suspects, no?), we’ve been advised not to discount the possibility that Marc Bergevin, entering the final year of his contract as general manager in Montreal, just might wind up in Los Angeles next season working with Kings president Luc Robitaille. 

Marc Bergevin
Marc Bergevin
NHLI via Getty Images

Off his opening night performance, Wayne Gretzky was The Pretty Darn Good One on the TNT pregame panel, relatable and personable. I thought the group — including Anson Carter, Paul Bissonnette and Rick Tocchet that was hosted by Liam McHugh — had easy chemistry. 

I do think that the enterprise would be augmented by including a news-breaker, but just off opening night, the pregame was an entertaining watch with obvious room to grow. We don’t need all-serious all the time, and TNT surely is not and will not be that. This is about attracting a wider audience to the games and to the NHL. 

Have not watched enough of either the TNT or ESPN telecasts to get a feel for the production. But I did catch enough of the Pittsburgh-Tampa Bay opener to recognize that ESPN’s Emily Kaplan, between the benches for that one, is a rising star. 

The NHL does not need its version of Charles Barkley, it needs its version of Ron Darling. 


Given a chance to do it again, they most assuredly would not. The Devils would not select Pavel Zacha sixth overall given a chance to redraft in 2015 — with Mikko Rantanen, Zach Werenski and Ivan Provorov on the board. 

Pavel Zacha
Pavel Zacha
Getty Images

But the fact is Zacha, who can be an effective support forward, has played more games for New Jersey (318 after Friday’s opener) than any of the Devils’ first-round draft picks since Travis Zajac in 2004. 


The answer may only define the short-term future of both the Flyers franchise and of head coach Alain Vigneault, but Carter Hart isn’t going to wind up being Blaine Lacher or someone, is he? 


You know that projected Zac Jones-Braden Schneider first pair for the AHL Wolf Pack? Didn’t even make it to the opener, with Jones skating on the left with Anthony Bitetto (which we just do not get) and Schneider skating on the right with Matthew Robertson. 


In recognition of Nils Lundkvist adopting No. 27, ranking the all-time Rangers to wear the digits: 1. Ryan McDonagh; 2. Alex Kovalev; 3. Ted Irvine; 4. Mike McEwen; 5. Jan Hlavac. 

And ranking our 27s to include the Islanders and Devils: 1. Scott Niedermayer; 2. John Tonelli; 3. McDonagh; 4. Anders Lee; 5. Derek King. 


Don’t quote me, but I believe the Rangers are going to dress Rudy Poeschek, Sandy McCarthy and Dale Purinton when the Caps visit the Garden. 


This just in: The NHL has hired Gabe Morales, the check-swing umpire from Dodgers-Giants, to rule on kicked-in pucks.



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