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Morning Coffee: Jack Hughes takes centre stage early in NHL season

New Jersey Devils Jack Hughes - The Canadian Press

The start of every NHL season brings with it the promise of a new wave of star talent that will help to redefine the sport.

If the first five games are any indication, it’s time for the Jack Hughes experience to take center stage.

Connor McDavid is the best player in the world and an obvious favourite to win the Hart Trophy, Art Ross Trophy, and the Rocket Richard Trophy at FanDuel entering the season.

Meanwhile, rookie first-overall pick Connor Bedard entered his first NHL season as an obvious pick to win the Calder Trophy as the league’s rookie of the year.

While McDavid and Bedard were the obvious front runners in those FanDuel NHL futures markets, anyone paying close enough attention recognized the potential for another former first-overall pick to shine this season as a value play in one of those markets.

The 22-year-old Hughes could be found as high as +2100 to win the Hart Trophy at FanDuel this summer.

We are less than a month into the 2023-24 NHL season, and only McDavid has shorter odds to win the Hart Trophy at FanDuel than Hughes this morning.

This is the Morning Coffee for Wednesday Oct. 25, 2023.

Jack Hughes takes centre stage early in NHL season

The New Jersey Devils were desperate for a reset when they selected Hughes with the first-overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft.

Five seasons later, the Devils are a top-five choice to win the Stanley Cup, with Hughes leading the way up front.

After flashing in his first two seasons in the league, Hughes topped a point-per-game pace for the first time in the 2021-22 season when he registered 26 goals and 56 points in 49 games.

All signs pointed towards a breakout in year four.

Hughes surpassed all expectations when he exploded for a career-high 43 goals and 99 points in 78 games last season.

After averaging 0.55 goals and 1.27 points per game as a 21-year-old, it was fair to wonder whether Hughes could take his game to another level once this season.

Last night, fans of the Montreal Canadiens got a closer look at his brilliance in person at the Bell Centre.

Hughes registered four assists in a 5-2 win over the Habs.

The 22-year-old is up to four goals and 14 points in just five games for an astounding 2.80 points per game through five games this season.

As a point of reference, McDavid led the NHL with 1.87 points per game last season.

Of course, no one expects Hughes to continue to produce those kinds of numbers for the duration of an entire season.

Still, Hughes has progressed in each of his first few seasons in the league and his underlying metrics are remarkable, so it won’t be a surprise if he delivers the best statistical output of his career this season.

As I’ve already highlighted, Hughes could be found as high as +2100 to win the Hart Trophy as the league’s MVP at FanDuel this season. He’s currently +550 to win that award as the second choice behind only McDavid.

While I’m not about to dismiss McDavid’s brilliance, it’s obvious that Hughes to win the Hart Trophy at +2100 was a solid value play for those of us that bought in at FanDuel over the summer.

That value isn’t entirely gone yet, but I wouldn’t be nearly as interested in Hughes’ odds to win the Hart Trophy at anything shorter than 5-to-1.

After finishing one point shy of becoming the first player in franchise history to record 100 points in a season last year, Hughes is set to obliterate that mark if he stays healthy this season.

While we know the Devils have an emerging superstar in Hughes, we still can’t fully comprehend how high his ceiling is, which will make this season that much more fun for hockey fans to watch.

Tonight, there’s just one NHL game on the slate, with New Jersey set to host the Washington Capitals.

The Devils are a monster -255 money line favourite for tonight’s game at FanDuel.

I expect the Jack Hughes experience to take centre stage once again, so it’s time for my first FanDuel Best Bet recommendation of the NHL season.

I’ll take Hughes to register three or more shots on goal and New Jersey to win at -130 odds as my FanDuel Best Bet.

Enjoy the Jack Hughes experience, everyone.