Hughes or Kakko?
Whoever the Devils don’t pick at No. 1, the Rangers surely will grab at No. 2.
The first round of the NHL Draft will be next Friday, June 21, at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, with rounds two through seven conducted the next day at the Canucks’ home rink. The Devils won the draft lottery for the second time in three years and will pick first. The Rangers, who own two first-round selections, moved up to second.
The Devils must decide between Florida-born center Jack Hughes of the U.S. National Team Development Program – all indications are he will be New Jersey-bound – or Finnish right wing Kaapo Kakko, who intensified the debate over who should go No. 1 with an electrifying performance as Finland topped favored Team Canada to win the World Championships last month.
This year’s draft class is considered a particularly deep one and one that may be dominated by members of Hughes’ U.S. under-18 squad, so there’s plenty of talent past Nos. 1 and 2. The Rangers also hold the 20th overall pick, while the Islanders select 23rd.
Here’s Newsday’s mock draft for the first round:
1. New Jersey Devils – Jack Hughes, C, US U-18 (NTDP), 5-10, 171, Shoots left: Superior skater with great vision and elite level hockey IQ. Had 112 points in 50 games and set a NTDP record with 228 career points. Tremendous playmaker that a team definitely could build around.
2. Rangers – Kaapo Kakko, RW, TPS (Liiga), 6-2, 194, Shoots left: Big power forward who is strong on the boards, goes to the dirty areas and finishes plays. Starred in Finland’s top league (22 goals in 45 games, a record for a draft-eligible player) and in the World Championships (team-high 6 goals as Finland won the gold). Finished product.
3. Chicago Blackhawks – Alex Turcotte, C, US U-18 (NTDP), 5-11, 186, Shoots left: Fiery competitor who plays a 200-foot game. A second-line center behind Hughes, the Chicagoland native is committed to the University of Wisconsin, so he’s a year or two away.
4. Colorado Avalanche (from Ottawa Senators) – Bowen Byram, D, Vancouver (WHL), 6-2, 195, Shoots left: Led all WHL players, regardless of position, in points in the playoffs (eight goals, eight assists). Consensus top defenseman available, possesses elite skating ability and plays at high speed.
5. Los Angeles Kings – Vasily Podkolzin, RW, Neva St. Petersburg (Russia 2), 6-1, 196, Shoots left: Competitive, two-way forward who played some junior hockey, some second-division professional hockey and three games as the 13th forward in the KHL. Doesn’t have big numbers, but clearly has skills, similar to Rangers first rounder Vitaly Kravtsov last summer. Under contract in Russia for two more years.
6. Detroit Red Wings – Kirby Dach, C, Saskatoon (WHL), 6-4, 198, Shoots right: Big playmaker who gets the puck to the net and who is hard to move from in front. Has lots of upside, but is something of a project – inconsistent, at times, and with what’s considered average skating ability.
7. Buffalo Sabres – Cole Caulfield, RW, US U-18 (NTDP), 5-7, 163, Shoots right: Scored 72 goals and had 100 points in 64 U-18 games in 2018-19, playing on a line with Hughes and broke the career record for goals with 126, previously held by Phil Kessel. Committed to Wisconsin.
8. Edmonton Oilers – Dylan Cozens, C/RW, Lethbridge (WHL), 6-3, 183, Shoots right: Big, physical and an excellent skater, with good vision and good hockey IQ. Natural goal-scorer who can quarterback a power play but also is sound defensively and can kill penalties.
9. Anaheim Ducks – Trevor Zegras, C, US U-18 (NTDP), 6-0, 173, Shoots left: Speedy skater who plays at both ends of the rink. Plays an abrasive game, where he gets under the skin of his opponents, and he plays the body too. Committed to Boston University.
10. Vancouver Canucks – Matthew Boldy, LW, US U-18 (NTDP), 6-2, 196, Shoots left: Two-way winger with a knack for finding open spots in the offensive zone and the hands to finish scoring chances (33 goals, 48 assists in 64 games in a second line role). Committed to Boston College.
11. Philadelphia Flyers – Philip Broberg, D, AIK (Sweden 2), 6-3, 200, Shoots left: Named the best defenseman at the U-18 World Championship for gold medal-winning Sweden. Two-way defenseman with elite skating ability and good hockey sense. Under contract for one more year in Sweden.
12. Minnesota Wild – Peyton Krebs, C, Kootenay (WHL), 6-0, 183, Shoots left: Captained his junior team and Canada’s team at the U-18 World Championships. Slick skater with hockey smarts who goes to the dirty areas and excels in all three zones. He suffered a partial tear of his Achilles’ tendon on June 4, which might scare some teams off.
13. Florida Panthers – Spencer Knight, G, US U-18 (NTDP), 6-4, 193, Catches left: These days, a goalie gets taken in the first round every other year. The last one to go in the first round was Jake Oettinger by Dallas in 2017. Knight could be the highest goalie picked since Dallas took Jack Campbell 11th overall in 2010. Big body who comes out of the net to cut off shooting angles. Controls rebounds well.
14. Arizona Coyotes – Arthur Kaliyev, RW, Hamilton (OHL), 6-2, 194, Shoots left: The first 50-goal scorer (51-51-102) in Hamilton Bulldogs history and just the fourth OHLer to score 50 before his 18th birthday. But can he do that against NHL defenders? The jury is out on that.
15. Montreal Canadiens – Victor Soderstrom, D, Brynas (SHL), 6-0, 182, Shoots right: Elegant two-way defenseman, gifted skater with a great shot. Size not impressive, but competitiveness on the boards and in front of the net is. Played 44 games in Sweden’s top pro league (4-3-7). Under contract for one more season.
16. Colorado Avalanche – Alex Newhook, C, Victoria (BCHL), 5-10, 192, Shoots left: Newhook, committed to Boston College, used his combination of superior skating speed, stickhandling skills and high hockey IQ to tally 38 goals and 64 assists in 53 games as he was named the British Columbia Hockey League’s MVP.
17. Vegas Golden Knights – Raphael Lavoie, C, Halifax (QMJHL), 6-4, 199, Shoots right: Lavoie uses his size and strong skating ability to his advantage and has a hard, quick shot. He was named his junior league’s best professional prospect.
18. Dallas Stars – Cam York, D, US U-18 (NTDP), 5-11, 172, Shoots left: Perhaps the best offensive-minded defenseman in the draft with his passing and skating skills. His 65 points (14 goals, 51 assists) in 63 games set a record for defensemen in the U.S. National Development Program.
19. Ottawa Senators (from Columbus Blue Jackets) – Mortiz Seider, D, Manheim (DEL), 6-3, 208, Shoots right: Seider was named rookie of the year in Germany’s top league but did struggle with injuries. A strong skater who is known more for his defense, though he is efficient in starting rushes in transition.
20. Rangers (from Winnipeg Jets) – Thomas Harley, D, Mississauga (OHL), 6-3, 193, Shoots left: The Syracuse-born Harley still must get stronger, but he plays well in both ends and is a very good puck mover. He had 11 goals and 47 assists in 68 games.
21. Pittsburgh Penguins – Ville Heinola, D, Lukko (Liiga), 6-0, 182, Shoots left: The slick, puck-mover acquitted himself well in both Finland’s top league and in helping his country to the gold at the World Championships. Heinola is a patient player who still must develop a better shot.
22. Los Angeles Kings (from Toronto Maple Leafs) – Ryan Suzuki, C, Barrie (OHL), 6-1, 180, Shoots left: A prototypical playmaker with above-average skating speed who can be an offensive force with the puck on his stick. He’s considered the OHL’s top prospect for this draft and his brother, Nick, was picked 13th overall by Vegas in 2017.
23. Islanders – Philip Tomasino, C, Niagara (OHL), 6-0, 183, Shoots right: An elite skater and puck-handler who had 34 goals and 38 assists in 67 games, tripling his point production from the previous season. While good on the power play, Tomasino excelled in five-on-five situations.
24. Nashville Predators – Bobby Brink, RW, Sioux City (USHL), 5-8, 165, Shoots right: A natural sniper who committed to the University of Denver after being named his league’s top forward. He is not the strongest skater but plays a responsible, two-way game.
25. Washington Capitals – Egor Afanasyev, LW, Muskegon (USHL), 6-3, 204, Shoots left: The Russian-born Afanasyev came to the U.S. for hockey as a 15-year-old and blossomed in his second season with Muskegon with 27 goals and 35 assists in 58 games. He had committed to Michigan State but will instead play junior hockey for Windsor (OHL).
26. Calgary Flames – Tobias Bjornfot, D, Djurgarden (J20 SuperElit), 6-0, 193, Shoots left: Bjornfot was named the top defenseman in Sweden’s junior league with 11 goals and 11 assists in 39 games. He’s a solid, two-way player with a strong wrist shot who was captain as Team Sweden won the gold at this year’s under-18 World Championships.
27. Tampa Bay Lightning – Samuel Poulin, RW, Sherbrooke (QMJHL), 6-1, 212, Shoots left: The son of Patrick Poulin, whose NHL career spanned 634 games, is a strong, two-way power forward who still must improve his skating ability.
28. Carolina Hurricanes – Jakob Pelletier, LW, Moncton (QMJHL), 5-9, 165, Shoots left: He has impressed scouts with his skating, two-way game and work ethic, if not his size, and his value will increase if he can make the transition to center.
29. Anaheim Ducks (from San Jose Sharks via Buffalo Sabres) – Brett Leason, RW, Prince Albert (WHL), 6-4, 210, Shoots right: Leason’s raw skills matured in his third junior season with 36 goals and 53 assists in 55 games. He uses his size to his advantage and shoots and passes effectively, though his skating could still improve.
30. Boston Bruins – Lassi Thomson, D, Kelowna (WHL), 6-0, 186, Shoots right: The Finnish defenseman adapted well in his first season in North America with 17 goals and 24 assists in 63 games. He has a hard, accurate point shot and also passes well, though he needs to get stronger.
31. Buffalo Sabres (from St. Louis Blues) – Connor McMichael, C, London (OHL), 6-0, 182, Shoots left: A smart, two-way player who had a breakout season with 36 goals and 36 assists in 67 games. His skating and size are questions marks.