Luke Hughes barely had time to digest being selected No. 4 by the New Jersey Devils in the 2021 NHL Draft on Friday when he received a bear hug from jubilant brother Jack Hughes.
It was a sight Devils fans hope to see frequently at Prudential Center in the coming years.
The brothers were euphoric when Luke, a defenseman, was chosen by the Devils, two years after they drafted Jack with the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft. The 17-year-old marked the occasion by wearing his older brother’s No. 86 New Jersey sweater during a video conference with reporters.
“It’s a dream come true to play in the NHL,” Luke said. “It’s also a dream come true to play with your brother. Both those things are happening tonight. I’m so excited to be a Devil and play with Jack someday.”
Jack, a center, agreed.
“It’s an awesome, awesome (day), it’s a great pick for our team,” Jack said. “[We’re] getting a great player. But I’m just a proud older brother right now.”
He had reason to be on this historic night; the selection marked the first time that a family from the United States had three brothers selected in the first round. Defenseman Quinn Hughes, 21, was selected No. 7 by the Vancouver Canucks in the 2018 NHL Draft, one year before Jack, 20, was selected by the Devils.
Luke said the only time he and Jack played together in organized hockey was during a tournament in Toronto when he was in Grade 6 and Jack was in Grade 8. But their parents, Jim and Ellen, should soon have the chance to see their two sons play for the same NHL team. Luke is the biggest of the three brothers at 6-foot-2, 184 pounds.
“It’s not like we’re a bunch of specimens who are 6-6,” Quinn said. “Me and Jack are 5-10 flat, and so they really had to teach us the game and extremely hard. A lot of credit to them. I think this is just a big-time family night for everyone. A lot of joy.”
Luke said playing against his older brothers as children helped him forge a competitive edge.
“Growing up with them, all the battles we had on the outdoor rinks and mini-sticks and all that stuff, I think that’s where we grew our passion and really became a little player,” he said. “It was huge with my brothers, not even as hockey players, but as role models and as people.”
Luke scored 34 points (six goals, 28 assists) in 38 games with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program Under-18 team but sustained a lacerated tendon in his foot March 7 and had season-ending surgery March 17. He’s been skating since May and is scheduled to play for the U.S. at the World Junior Summer Showcase from July 24-31. The event will feature practices and games against Finland and Sweden and serves as the first step toward picking the teams that will play in the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship.
Luke participated in an organized practice this week for the first time in four months and declared himself 100 percent healthy. He is committed to the University of Michigan and said he’ll probably play there for two years but added his road to the NHL could accelerate depending on his development.
John Vanbiesbrouck, assistant executive director of hockey operations for USA Hockey, said Luke possesses a lot of the same skills as Quinn.
“I see a more steadiness than any kind of flash,” Vanbiesbrouck said. “I think he’s a very consistent skater. He can maintain his speed for long shift period of time. It’s hard to keep your energy up like that. He’s smart, extremely smart, and he has his eyes up the ice all the time. Quinn’s like that. He’s got his eyes up all the time, looking for outlets and guy on a stretch play.”
NHL.com staff writer Mike G. Morreale contributed to this report