NHL Draft: Who Goes #1 Overall?
Back in early April, the NHL hosted the highly anticipated 2019 NHL Draft Lottery in Toronto, Canada. With one of the deeper drafts we have seen in recent years, all eyes were on which team would land either the number one or number two spot. Why? Simple answer, Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko. These two players are by far the two top prospects in the NHL Draft coming up on Friday, June 21st in Vancouver, Canada. The New Jersey Devils ended up winning the draft lottery and securing the number one pick, with the New York Rangers getting the second pick.
In most NHL Drafts, there is almost always a clear-cut number one guy followed by a clear-cut number two guy, and so on. This draft is a little bit different, though. While Hughes is technically ranked as the projected #1 pick, the race for that top spot could not be closer. In fact, some scouts say this is the tightest race we have ever seen.
Hughes is a five-foot ten-inch centerman weighing in at 170 pounds. Spending his last two seasons playing for the U.S. National Development Program, he went on to surpass almost every single scoring record, now making him the program’s leading scorer with 228 total points, ahead of guys like Auston Matthews, Clayton Keller, and Patrick Kane, to name a few. But what about Hughes makes him one of the most prolific point-producing prospects we have ever seen?
To start, his all-around talent is highlighted by his unmatched skating ability. Rather than using his size, Hughes uses his highly skilled skating ability to get around defensemen and get into those attacking lanes. Paired with this is Hughes’ stickhandling ability at top speed. Most recently, we saw countless examples of this at the IIHF World Championships in Slovakia. Additionally, his vision and hockey IQ is said to be by far the best in the draft class. This allows him to see and understand the game at maximum speed and find the open areas on the ice, therefore making the players around him better. While some say he doesn’t have the best shot, his vision, puck handling, and skating ability makes him a threat on offense every time he gets the puck on his stick. A potential pairing with Taylor Hall could make the Devils a force to reckon with for the years to come.
Followed very closely behind Hughes is the Finnish-born star by the name of Kaapo Kakko. Kakko is a six-foot two-inch right winger weighing in at 190 pounds. Spending the past season and a half playing in Finland’s top professional league, the TPS, Kakko has already has a fair amount of experience playing against seasoned veterans, many of which are at least half a decade older than him.
While Kakko may not be as quick or fast as Hughes, he makes up for this in size and strength. He is a big, playmaking winger that possesses high-end vision, making him a threat with and without the puck. Kakko also has great stickhandling skills, as well, that allow him to make plays at top speed and utilize his deadly wrist shot. As seen in the most recent IIHF World Championships, he can take command of the game with the puck on his stick in the offensive zone. Additionally, thanks to his size, he is also efficient in board battles and 1-on-1 situations, allowing him to create open spaces for his teammates. With a near-perfect balance of power and finesse, Kakko is the most NHL-ready candidate in the draft right now and could jump into a top-6 spot on either of the two top drafting teams almost immediately. Pairing him with a quick, playmaking centerman could be a potentially lethal combination.
Who do you think will get drafted number one in this years’ NHL Draft? Who are you most excited to watch? Let us know your thoughts on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter!
This article was originally published on June 18, 2019, and has been updated with new information.