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Jack Hughes vs. Connor McDavid

Who do you got? There’s no wrong answer, so take your pick, but you better be able to explain yourself after the fact.

Thursday night at Prudential Center Jack Hughes and the Devils played host to Connor McDavid and the Oilers in a game that was billed as a matchup between two highly skilled offenses. The end result was a 6-3 Devils loss in which New Jersey surrendered three early third-period goals in a span of 1:09, to drop their third straight game. Right in the middle of it all was McDavid – two points on the night – whose goal 1:40 into the third period tied the game at 3-3 and turned the tide of the game for good. 

However, more important than the final score, we want to know how Hughes and McDavid compare to each other. If you were starting your own NHL franchise, which of these transcendent superstars would you want to build your team around? 

To help us find the answers we seek we’ve enlisted some help. So, please give a warm welcome to our trio of hockey minds: Jack Michaels (Oilers broadcaster); Anonymous Western Conference Scout; and Anonymous Eastern Conference Scout.

But first, here’s a little “Tale of The Tape.”


Height: 5-11

Weight: 175 lbs.

Position: Center

Team: Devils

Age: 22-years-old

Draft Selection: 1st overall, 2019 NHL Entry Draft

NHL Seasons: 5


Height: 6-1

Weight: 193 lbs.

Position: Center

Team: Oilers

Age: 26-years-old

Draft Selection: 1st overall, 2015 NHL Entry Draft 

NHL Seasons: 9

At first glance, McDavid has a two-inch and 18-pound advantage over Hughes in terms of physical stature. Both play the same position, and both were drafted Number One overall. But what Hughes lacks in size, he makes up for in being four years younger. Meanwhile, each player wields uncanny skills, terrific hand-eye coordination, superior speed, and a high Hockey IQ.

Now for some advanced metrics courtesy of NHL Edge Stats


Top Skating Speed (kph): 37.95

League Average (kph): 35.28

Percentile: 98

Top Shot Speed (kph): 135.29

League Average (kph): 135.86

Percentile: Below 50

Average Shot Speed (kph): 73.43

League Average (kph): 72.94

Percentile: Below 50


Top Skating Speed (kph): 36.84

League Average (kph): 35.28

Percentile: 90

Top Shot Speed (kph): 147.24

League Average (kph): 135.86

Percentile: 70

Average Shot Speed (kph): 79.88

League Average (kph): 72.94

Percentile: Below 50

Allow me to summarize for you. McDavid’s skating speed blows Hughes away. Hughes’ shot speed and edge work knock out McDavid’s. Simple, right? 

WRONG! The numbers only tell part of the story. There’s so much more to both players than sheer numbers.

Now let’s bring in our hockey minds to break this all down.

“It’s the speed at which (McDavid) makes plays with the puck,” said Jack Michaels. “There are probably guys who are close to as fast as McDavid in the league, Jack Hughes being one of them, and probably guys who are faster. He’s not the defending champion anymore in the NHL’s fastest skater competition. But no one makes plays with the puck at that speed. For me, that’s what sets (McDavid) apart.”

“The key for him is the execution at that speed,” our Anonymous Western Conference Scout explained. “McDavid’s so smart and so fast. A lot of guys, they get to that speed and they can’t make a play. He can, which you don’t see all that often. It’s really incredible to watch his execution. When he is going full speed, his ability to still see the ice, and use his hands and complete plays is as good as there is.”

Okay, we know McDavid is the “King of Speed,” but is that really all that separates these two?

“McDavid’s got both (the skills and the IQ),” explained our Anonymous Western Conference Scout. “His hockey IQ is as good as there is. When you can feel the game and see the game at that speed, that’s when you’re executing and that’s when you’re producing.

“Jack is still growing to me. There’s still another level for him. For him, it’s more quickness that I see. He jumps into holes, he does the tight turns and the shiftiness. That’s how he gets himself space and then he can execute with his hands and make plays.

“McDavid is whatever he needs to be at the time. He can go both ways. If his team needs a goal and he’s got a lane, he’ll shoot it. If there’s an open guy then he moves it. Jack, to me, opens up more ice individually and then he’ll dish or shoot. They’re similar in that way where I think they both can contribute whatever their team needs. If you’re an elite player like the two of them are, that’s what you do.”

Alright, now we’re getting some answers. So, it’s not just his speed, but also McDavid’s Hockey IQ that sets him apart. Is there a pathway Hughes can take to close the gap?

“Absolutely. Without a doubt,” exclaimed our anonymous Eastern Conference Scout. “I mean, he’s only got a couple years under his belt, right? There’s nothing more valuable than experience. Connor, he’s in probably the peak, prime of his career, right in the middle. Maybe he can play for 20 years. We don’t know yet. 

“(Jack’s) gonna gain more experience. He’s gonna learn more about NHL defensemen, and NHL goaltending. He’s only gonna get better. I have no doubt in my mind he’s going to (get better) and on top of that, his body’s going to get a bit stronger too. He is gonna do some different training stuff off the ice and whatnot. So yeah, I think he still has another level to take it to. They’re both very similar in that they both can score and they both can make plays.”

There’s no denying strength and experience are important factors. Maybe once Hughes develops a drop more, physically, perhaps he’ll be able to frighten other teams the way McDavid currently does.

“When you look at Connor McDavid, he’s no longer a young player in the league,” Jack Michaels chimed in. “He’s got nine years in the league and Jack had a couple of setbacks very early in his career. 

“(Hockey IQ) develops with time. I think there are going to be individual years where guys like Jack Hughes and Nathan MacKinnon take a run at (McDavid) for that particular year. But I don’t think, over the course of a career, that you’re gonna see another talent like McDavid make the plays he does at high speeds and make the right kind of plays. That’s what separates superstars from the ‘generational talents.’ I truly think McDavid is on the level of a Mario (Lemieux) or a (Wayne) Gretzky and guys like Jack Hughes and Nathan MacKinnon, while unquestioned superstars are the next level below.”

“I think (Hughes) could probably still get stronger,” our anonymous Western Conference Scout countered. “The balance, the battles, the ability to win those one-on-ones, when he does that, he’ll find himself with more space, and his production will become even more. I just think it’s physical growth. I mean, he’s still a young player in this league and I see another level of physical maturity in him.”

Good. Good. We’re getting some back-and-forth here. On the one hand, Hughes still has room to grow. On the other hand, McDavid is already at the peak of his powers. So, I guess the analysis is done. But, we still don’t know which player we would start a franchise with.

“Connor can take some checks a little bit better than Jack,” our anonymous Eastern Conference Scout explained. “Jack’s gone through some injury issues already in his first couple of years. It’s not very often (either of) those guys get caught where they get hit hard. But if it does happen, the guy who’s gonna miss some games due to injury, it’s Jack, not Connor. That’s the only reason I would go with Connor (over Jack to start a franchise). It’s just because of his body type; being a little bit bigger-boned or whatever you want to call it. That’d be the only reason why.”

Well alright then. I suppose injury concerns do have a role to play when deciding who you’d want to start a franchise with. Granted, McDavid hasn’t been injury-free during his career, but I guess his body will currently hold up to the physical demands of an NHL season better than Jack’s. 

Honestly, it’s such a slim margin. You can’t go wrong with choosing either one to start a franchise with. But, for now, our choice will be Connor McDavid over Jack Hughes. 

Come back again in five years, and let’s see if the answer changes.

photos by Katelynn Reiss

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