By Daniel Friedman
Another Jewish kid is moving to New Jersey.
Just before candle-lighting last Friday evening, the Devils selected Jack Hughes with the first overall pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, making him not only the face of the franchise, but also the first Jewish athlete to be a No. 1 pick in the history of professional sports.
Don’t let the last name throw you — his mother is Jewish and he celebrated his bar mitzvah. Hughes is one of us and he’s coming to a hockey rink near you. The slippery but undersized center from Orlando, Florida is the highest-scoring player the U.S. National Team Development Program (NTDP) has ever churned out, amassing 190 career points as an amateur.
Now, he’ll get the opportunity to ply his trade in Newark, where the Devils hope to return to the winning ways of their glory years. And they didn’t stop with Hughes, trading for elite defenseman PK Subban on day two of the draft. Their cross-river rivals in Manhattan also stocked up on draft day, taking hulking Finnish winger Kappo Kakko with the number-two pick. Kakko is not Jewish, so that figures to be a disadvantage when comparing the two players (it’s science).
Hughes immediately becomes the flagbearer for the next wave of Jewish hockey stars — and there are quite a few. Jack’s brother Quinn is a mobile defenseman who will get a shot to make the Vancouver Canucks out of training camp. Zach Hyman went to a Jewish day school in Toronto and now spends his days on the Maple Leafs’ top line, riding shotgun with star pivot Auston Matthews. Jason Zucker (Minnesota Wild), Luke Kunin (Wild), Jakob Chychrun (Arizona Coyotes), and Josh Ho-Sang (Islanders) are also either in the NHL or right on the cusp.
Then there’s David Levin, the Israeli kid who’s starred in the Ontario Hockey League and may have a shot to play in the pros one day if he can put it all together. Levin went undrafted last year but did receive an invitation to the Leafs’ prospect camp. He has a dynamic skillset and will have other opportunities. His story is an outstanding one, though, and it deserves its own article.
Don’t expect to see Jack Hughes wandering around Lakewood … for now. Whatever does happen, it’ll be fun to watch him mature as an NHL superstar — and a Jewish one, for a change.