With the eighth overall pick, they chose Jack Hughes, who would have easily been selected with the first overall pick had he not declared his intentions of playing with the US National Team Development Program next year.
General manager James Boyd was told the young dynamic centre is dead set on honouring his commitment to the US NTDP, so the Steelheads are realistic in acknowledging that he likely won’t report this year.
However, Boyd believed selecting Hughes was well worth the risk even if there is a small chance he will change his mind a year or two down the road.
Hughes played a year up for much of his minor hockey career and returned to the GTHL for a second minor midget season last year.
As captain of the Toronto Marlies, he recorded 73 points (23 goals and 50 assists) in 33 games.
He plays the game at top speed and could very well be the best OHL prospect since Connor McDavid.
Mississauga selected Hughes with a compensation pick they earned by trading last year’s top pick, Kirill Nizhnikov, to the Barrie Colts for at least six future draft picks after he didn’t report to Mississauga’s training camp.
The deadline to pull off such a move in order to acquire a compensation pick is in mid-September, so one would think Mississauga could orchestrate a similar deal with Hughes, but they can’t get a compensation pick for someone selected with a compensation pick.
That said, there’s no incentive to trade his rights before his first season of eligibility and it’s worth holding on to him.
This year, Mississauga wasn’t gun shy about taking chances on Boston University commits Trevor Zegras and Robert Mastrosimone and Harvard commit Warren Marshall.
Top-ranked Americans who have committed to the US NTDP or an NCAA program are usually taken in the later rounds of the draft. Still, there’s been a trend developing lately where certain teams are willing to take their shot at these prospects earlier.
The Saginaw Spirit did it last year with fourth overall pick Blade Jenkins, followed by Bode Wilde in the next round. They also didn’t let Alex Turcotte slip past the second round in this year’s draft in the hopes that any of the aforementioned eventually forego their college commitments and take on the OHL route.
As well, the Guelph Storm selected Tag Bertuzzi second overall, fully confident that he’ll report since his dad, longtime NHLer Todd Bertuzzi is a Guelph alum.
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