One of the Devils top two offensive players is going to their first All Star Game. Is it the right one?
For the first time in his NHL career, Jack Hughes has been selected to participate in an NHL All Star game. The captains of each division are selected by a fan vote, and the next nine players for each team are selected by the NHL’s department of hockey operations. One last player for each division is selected by a fan vote after the initial rosters are announced. Hughes was selected to play for the Metropolitan Division by the league’s hockey operations department and Jesper Bratt was a candidate for the “last man in” fan vote. However, Mika Zibanejad from the Rangers was selected as the last man for the Metro and Bratt won’t be going to the All Star Game unless Hughes needs a replacement for some reason. Some people have raised the question, was Jack Hughes or Jesper Bratt the right pick from the Devils to go to the All Star game? Let’s compare the two players to see if the right choice was made.
Offensive Production. Edge to Hughes. Jesper Bratt is the Devils scoring leader. He leads the Devils in goals, assists and points. However, Jack Hughes missed significant time with injury this season. Hughes has a higher points per game and goals per game average than Bratt. So while Bratt has been more productive overall, Hughes has been far more explosive, producing at a higher per game average than Bratt. This is not take away from Bratt, who has 10 goals and 32 points in 34 games, but Hughes has 9 goals and 20 points in 20 games. For that reason, I give the edge to Jack in this category.
Defensive Play. Edge to Hughes. According to hockey-reference.com, Jack Hughes has 28 takeaways and 15 giveaways this season. Meanwhile, Jesper Bratt has 16 takeaways and 25 giveaways so far this season. Additionally, you can look at “expected goals” against and “expected goals” for when the player is on the ice. This season, the Devils have an expected goals against of 15.3 when Hughes is on the ice, compared to 17.8 when Bratt is on the ice. This shows that Hughes takes better care of the puck and the Devils allow fewer quality scoring chances against when Hughes is on the ice as opposed to Bratt.
Star Power. Edge to Hughes. Jack Hughes was a highly touted first overall pick in 2019. Jesper Bratt was a 6th round pick in 2016. Hughes comes from a famous American hockey family with two parents who have been involved with the game at a high level and two brothers who were also picked in the top 10 of their respective drafts. Bratt was pretty much unknown to every North American hockey fan until his rookie season in 2017-2018. Hughes has done several national media interviews in both the United States and Canada while Bratt has had fewer of those opportunities. This is not a knock on Jesper Bratt at all, but the All Star is mainly a marketing spectacle designed to get as many casual viewers into the game as possible. The fact of the matter is, Jack Hughes is still a bigger name than Jesper Bratt and therefore easier for the NHL to market. Despite the factors listed above, I think Jack was always going to be the NHL’s pick to represent the Devils at the All Star game for the marketing and star power aspect alone.
Regardless of who ended up going to the All Star Game, both players are having fantastic seasons. Hughes has already signed a big contract extension and Bratt is due for a significant pay raise this offseason. They have both been electric to watch on the ice, especially when paired together on the same line. It’s been a joy to watch both players so far this season and I can’t wait to see how they continue to develop as they enter the prime of their NHL career’s.