- American Jack Hughes is favored to be selected first overall in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft
- Finland’s Kaapo Kakko is the consensus second overall selection
- No Finnish player has ever gone first overall in an NHL entry draft
Jack Hughes or Kaapo Kakko? Kakko or Hughes? Jack or Kaapo?
What didn’t seem like a debate not so long ago is looking less like a certainty today than at any time during the 2018-19 hockey season.
Who do you want to end up with – Kakko or Hughes? ?
— MSG Networks (@MSGNetworks) May 23, 2019
Hughes of USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program under-18 team began the campaign as the consensus choice to be selected first overall in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. But a strong showing by Finland’s Kakko at the recently-concluded world championship has turned some heads and opened some eyes.
Still, the sportsbooks remain solidly in the corner of Hughes. He retains his status as the favorite to be selected first overall when the opening round of the draft is held on June 21st in Vancouver.
Who Will Be Picked First in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft?
|Who Will Be Picked 1st in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft?||Odds|
*Odds taken 05/29/19
Last year, the hometown Canucks selected Hughes’ older brother, defenseman Quinn Hughes, with the seventh overall selection. But the Canucks won’t pick until 10th overall this season.
As Finland captured the gold medal at the world championship, it was difficult not to notice Kakko. He scored six goals, including a hat-trick against Slovakia.
Meanwhile, Hughes was limited to three assists and was a healthy scratch for one Team USA game.
Clearly, at this stage in their careers, Kakko is more physically developed and prepared to compete against men. But that only means that Hughes has plenty of room to grow and get ever better.
Matthews vs Laine Again
Three years ago, there was a similar center/winger debate headed into the draft between American Auston Matthews, who went first overall to the Toronto Maple Leafs, and Patrik Laine, who was chosen second overall by the Winnipeg Jets.
Today, it’s doubtful that either team would seek a do-over on the draft.
Hughes Enjoyed Huge Year
While it’s easy to become enamored with Kakko after the Worlds, the fact of the matter is that Hughes put up monster numbers this season with Team USA, scoring 34 goals and collecting 112 points in 50 games.
Hughes put up monster numbers this season with Team USA, scoring 34 goals and collecting 112 points in 50 games.
The old hockey theory is that when the choice is between a center and a winger, you always take the center. Kakko is the better finisher. He had 22 goals and 38 points for TPS in Finland’s Liiga. But Hughes has so much more to offer in terms of creativity and vision on the ice.
Hockey people who get paid to devour the draft and all its minutiae like TSN’s Craig Button and Bob McKenzie remain solidly in Hughes’ corner.
When the New Jersey Devils made the first overall selection of the 2019 NHL entry draft, their choice will be Hughes.
Pick: Jack Hughes (-400)