For the second time in two years, the New Jersey Devils will pick first overall in the NHL Draft. The Devils won the 2019 NHL Draft Lottery tonight in Toronto and will now have the rights to pick centerman Jack Hughes in Vancouver in June.
The Devils had an 11.5-percent chance of moving into the top position, a 33.9-percent chance of getting a top three pick and could drop no lower than the sixth pick.
The Rangers will pick second and the Chicago Blackhawks third – they were both teams that moved up in the Draft as well.
Hughes, who plays at John Hynes’ old stomping grounds of the USA Hockey National Team Development Program in the USHL according to Mike G. Morreale of NHL.com, is the number one rated player by NHL Central Scouting among North American skaters. The 17-year-old 5-feet, 10-inch, 170-pound center led the USA “NTDP with 86 points (23 goals, 63 assists) in 41 games” this season according to Morreale and “holds the NTDP records for assists (139) and points (202) in 101 games over two seasons.”
Morreale quoted Dan Marr, who is the director of NHL Central Scouting as saying: “Jack is an elite skater who plays the game at top speed both with and without the puck, he sees the ice tremendously well and finds open space to create scoring chances. He has a complete package of skills that suggest he will be a franchise NHL player and game-changer.”
Of course, the Devils could always use the pick on Kaapo Kakko of TPS of Liiga in his native Finland. Kakko was the number one rated International skater by NHL Central Scouting. He is 6-feet, 2-inches tall and weighs 194 pounds and “scored 22 goals in 45 games, a record for a first-time draft-eligible player in Liiga” according to Morreale. In addition, Morreale said that “Kakko’s 0.84 points per game ranks fourth on the single-season list of under-18 players in Liiga.”
According to Goran Stubb, NHL director of European Scouting, as told to Morreale: “Kakko has excellent offensive instincts, is dangerous around the net and also a good passer and playmaker. He could be NHL-ready as early as next season after playing two seasons (51 games) in the men’s league.”
We will get a chance to see Kakko play again, as he is going to play in the 2019 World Championship in May for Team Finland.
That being said, the Devils will likely use the pick for Hughes and the Rangers will use theirs on Kakko, which should add even more of an edge to the rivalry. This will be reminiscent of 2017 when the Flyers ended up with the second pick (taking Nolan Patrick) while the Devils got the first overall pick and Nico Hischier.
No matter what, though, rejoice Devils fans because tonight our rebuild just a major shot in the arm!
The 2019 NHL Draft takes place on June 21 and 22, 2019 from Rogers Arena in Vancouver.