Jack Hughes has long been viewed as the top prospect in this year’s draft, but some think Kaapo Kakko should take that spot.
The New Jersey Devils have the top pick in this draft, meaning they’ll get to pick between Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko. The New York Rangers own the second pick and will presumably take the kid New Jersey doesn’t select.
It’s almost universally thought that the Devils plan to take Hughes first (ESNY’s Brian Paget agrees), meaning Kakko will go to the Rangers second overall. However, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, some GMs feel that the order should be flipped.
Bob McKenzie on Kappo Kakko: “He’s ready to make an immediate impact in the National Hockey League and that’s why a number of teams are intrigued by him and believe he’s as good if not better than Jack Hughes.”
The New York Rangers are gonna be a problem… pic.twitter.com/MMCerwg3VL
— NHL Prospects Watcher (@Prospects_Watch) June 18, 2019
McKenzie said that a number of teams are intrigued by Kakko and put him on equal footing or even slightly above Hughes. While Hughes is likely to go first overall, Kakko has certainly made his case to be considered.
Kakko had six goals and an assist in 10 World Championship games, showing he could hold his own against professionals. His 22-16-38 season for TPS Turku in the SM-liiga is one of the best seasons put up by a draft-eligible player. He also plays wing, meaning he’ll have an easier transition to the NHL than Hughes, who is a center. He also collected five points in seven games at the U-20 world championships.
Hughes was a force as well, producing a 34-78-112 line across 50 USDP games, good for over two points per game. He has elite vision and edgework, and should be a consistent point producer in the NHL.
He also collected 20 points in seven games at the U-18 championships, four in at the U-20 championships, and three in seven at the world championships playing on a US team loaded with NHL stars.
Both of them should be impact players that help re-ignite the Rangers-Devils rivalry that dominated New York hockey for so many years.