Jack Hughes, Kaapo Kakko
ESNY Graphic, AP Photo

Kaapo Kakko of the New York Rangers and Jack Hughes of the New Jersey Devils had their NHL 20 ratings revealed Thursday night.

The rivalry between the New York Rangers and the New Jersey Devils was reinvigorated this summer. The Devils won the first pick in the 2019 draft and selected Jack Hughes. The Rangers landed the second pick and followed their rivals by selecting the other top prospect in the draft, Kaapo Kakko.

When a draft has two elite players, they are often linked together. Picture Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin, Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, or Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine. Factor in the team rivalry, and for better or less these two will be linked forever.

EA Sports knows this, and they decided to reveal the ratings that each player has earned in NHL 20 on the same night, giving hockey fans something to debate about during the dog days of summer when not much is going on.

Hughes, the first overall pick who put together one of the best US National Development Team careers ever, was rated 82 by EA. The rating makes sense for Hughes, as he owns the second and third-best single-season point totals in USNTDP history (112 and 116). Only Matthews (117) has ever had more.

The lefty shooting center figures to be a mainstay on the Devils for years to come, as does Kaapo Kakko. Kakko had the best age-18 seasons in Liiga history, producing 22 goals and 38 points in 45 games against professional players. His 81 rating is one point worse than Hughes’.

While Rangers fans would have loved to see Kakko’s name higher, the fact that they were so close would be surprising a year ago. Hughes had been viewed as the consensus top prospect in the draft since scouting for the draft began by teams, with Kakko only coming close to overtaking him in the final year. While Hughes went first, some GMs did prefer Kakko to him by the time the draft rolled around.

However it shakes out, the reality is that both teams got franchise changing players in the draft, and the rivalry between them should be fierce for the next 10-15 years.

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