Montreal Canadiens: Later NHL Start Could Lead To Cole Caufield, Jack Hughes Reunion at WJC

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA - JUNE 21: Cole Caufield. (Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images)
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA - JUNE 21: Cole Caufield. (Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images) /

Montreal Canadiens prospect Cole Caufield wasn’t great at his first World Juniors, but could be exceptional at his second.

The Montreal Canadiens drafted Cole Caufield with the 15th overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft. The only reason the elite goal scorer and offensive winger was available was because of his size. If the draft were all about finding the best goal scorer, Cole Caufield likely would have gone first overall.

It was Jack Hughes who was taken first that year by the New Jersey Devils. Ironically, he made a habit out of finding goal scorer Cole Caufield with passes all year leading up to the draft.

With the NHL admitting that the 2020-21 season may not start until January, we might get to see Hughes and Caufield playing together again.

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The World Junior Championship is taking place in Edmonton in late December and early January with teams entering the bubble that the NHL is currently occupying. There, they will compete in front of empty buildings just like the Dallas Stars and Tampa Bay Lightning are in the Stanley Cup Final.

If the NHL is not up and running at that time, it would make sense for the Devils to allow Hughes to compete for his country. We have seen top young players who already played in the NHL take part in the World Juniors during lockouts. This would be a bit of a different scenario, but with the Devils not participating in the return to play at all, Hughes will not have played a meaningful game in nine months.

Would it be best for his first real game back to be an NHL game? Or would it make more sense to send him to the World Juniors where he could gear up for NHL action?

If he does go to the World Juniors, it would make a lot of sense to pair him with Caufield once again. The year they played together for the United States National Development Program, they were unstoppable. Caufield scored 72 goals and 100 points in 64 games for the USDP that year. Hughes was the centre on the line and the setup man. He registered 112 points in just 50 games.

The pair set records at the World Under-18 tournament that year. Caufield scored 14 goals in just seven games and Hughes led the tournament with 20 points in seven contests. They were simply magical to watch at that tournament.

It would be a lot of fun to watch them paired together again, even for a short tournament. The Americans would be hard to stop as Trevor Zegras, Alex Turcotte, Matt Boldy and Bobby Brink would join Caufield and Hughes in the top six forward group. Spencer Knight was terrific in goal at last year’s event and promises to be even better this year.

With Cam York leading the way on defence (and Jayden Struble) the team would be absolutely stacked. Caufield struggled to find offence at last year’s event, but he would have a few more opportunities to put pucks in the net with Hughes and Zegras on his line instead of John Beecher.

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There may not be a lot of Habs prospects at this year’s World Juniors. It won’t matter if Caufield plays with Hughes because they would provide more fireworks than a dozen prospects in any other year.