Goin' high: Hughes chooses No. 86 with Devils

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Hughes-Kakko could be compared to Ovechkin-Crosby rivalry (1:36)

Emily Kaplan reacts to Jack Hughes going to the Devils at No. 1 in the NHL draft and Kaapo Kakko going to the Rangers at No. 2 overall. (1:36)

Jack Hughes is already making history for the New Jersey Devils.

The 18-year-old phenom, taken first overall at this past weekend's NHL draft, will become the first Devils player and only the 14th in NHL history to wear No. 86 on his sweater, as was revealed at his introductory news conference in Newark on Tuesday.

"It's a pretty cool number. It's a high number, so it's a little flashy," said Hughes, a dynamic center from Orlando, Florida.

Devils general manager Ray Shero even noted the rarity of his jersey choice.

"This is only his training camp number," he said, handing Hughes his jersey at the news conference. "I'm kidding, I'm kidding. It's his real number. You can start selling them."

Hughes wore two numbers for most of his career with the U.S. national development program and in international play, and both of them had connections to his family.

"No. 6 is the family number. Everyone has worn it: uncles, aunts, cousins, brothers," Hughes said on the Devils All-Access podcast.

He also wore No. 43. It was a number his older brother, Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes, wore during his USA Hockey development program days and passed on to Jack, who said he had passed it on to younger brother Luke Hughes. In fact, Jack said he saw a No. 43 Devils jersey with his name on it at their draft party the night he was selected.

Instead, he chose to wear No. 86 in the NHL. Hughes said he previously wore the number in "minor-midget" hockey for two years and decided to bring it back for his pro career -- mostly because he knew his preferred No. 6 was already on the back of 36-year-old Devils captain Andy Greene.

"Well, Greener is No. 6, obviously. Probably not the best start if I ask the captain to change his number," Hughes said.

The most prominent No. 86 in the league right now -- and likely ever -- is Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov. Hurricanes forward Teuvo Teravainen also sports the number.

The Devils have given notice they might be re-emerging as a contender with an encouraging draft and the stunning acquisition of six-time All-Star defenseman P.K. Subban. It has all gone a long way in turning pessimism into optimism for a team that finished with the league's third-worst record and out of the playoffs for the sixth time in seven years.

"Adding a talent like Jack Hughes on Friday night and Saturday, P.K. Subban, obviously I think the Devils are back in business," Shero said.

It started with winning the draft lottery in early April and continued with the selection of Hughes, a center, with the top pick Friday, as well as the trade for Subban, who immediately steps into the role as New Jersey's top defenseman.

With 2017-18 MVP Taylor Hall expected to return to form after an injury-marred campaign, 2017 No. 1 pick Nico Hischier continuing his development and leading scorer Kyle Palmieri playing his best hockey, the Devils have a shot to do something in a league where the St. Louis Blues came out of nowhere to win the Stanley Cup.

Devils majority owner Josh Harris said he can't wait for the season to start and added that Devils fans are used to having won Stanley Cups -- the last was in 2003 -- and now is the time to start doing it again.

"Jack joining the franchise represents another turn in our goal to be elite," Harris said at a news conference for Hughes at the Prudential Center. "We said that we're here not to do anything other than consistently compete and ultimately win the Stanley Cup."

With parents Jim and Ellen sitting in the front row, the 18-year-old Hughes was soft-spoken, confident and composed speaking on a stage that included Harris and Shero. Hughes said he had no doubt he would be playing next season in the NHL for the Devils and he hopes to play a creative game.

Hughes hasn't stopped going since the draft. He returned to New Jersey with Shero, Harris and his parents on a private jet and spent the next few days making media appearances. He attended the New York Yankees' game against Toronto on Monday night, sitting for 30 minutes with Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson and actor Adam Sandler.

He is eager now to return to suburban Toronto, where he grew up, and begin preparations for an 82-game season and be a part of an NHL team.

"I want to be Jack Hughes, not Patrick Kane or Matt Barzal," Hughes said. "I want to have my own flavor, my own excitement to my game."

The 170-pound playmaking center mixed poise, drive and sheer skating ability to score 74 goals and 154 assists in 110 games with the national team development program.

It will be interesting to see what he does with the Devils. Hischier had 20 goals and 32 assists as a rookie.

Hughes doesn't see himself as competing with Hischier for the job as the top-line center.

"I think to win, you have to have 1A and 1B," Hughes said. "No team wins with just one really good center. Travis Zajac has been a really good center for a long time, and I think the Devils are in a really good spot. In the NHL, I feel whoever I play with will be a really good player."

Coach John Hynes is looking forward to using all his new talent.

"It's exciting," Hynes said. "It's what you want. You want guys to come in and give you a chance to win and coach some excellent players."

And who is to say the Devils are done? Subban has a $9 million salary-cap hit for each of the next three seasons, but the Devils still have $25 million available in cap space.

"I feel with the pieces we have at this moment, we are a much better team than we were on Thursday," goaltender Cory Schneider said. "That's encouraging."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.