While Jack Hughes is ranked 1st on TSN‘s draft rankings, Bob McKenzie noted that many of the scouts he spoke with had Hughes and Kaapo Kakko very close together.
One scout told McKenzie that while his team has Hughes ranked 1st, it’s “almost too close to call” and another that said “flip a coin, it’s that close.” (TSN)
McKenzie notes that in TSN’s September, January and April rankings Hughes was the unanimous number one choice (10 votes out of 10) but that in this final ranking Hughes picked up eight first overall votes and Kakko picked up two votes. (TSN)
While asking an additional 11 teams for their perspective, six picked Hughes, two picked Kakko and three said that it was “too close to call.”(TSN)
Hughes earned a score of 64.50, the highest in the 2019 draft class, in McKeen‘s Overall Future Projection.
Kakko earned the next highest score with 64.00. (McKeens)
Devils Director of Amateur Scouting Paul Castron said that while Hughes may be more “dynamic,” Kakko is “stronger at this stage in development.” (NHL.com)
He said that Kakko has “man-strength” and that NHL defensemen struggled to “contain” him at the World Championships. (NHL.com)
A scout told The Athletic’s Sunaya Sapurji that the two players are “closer than most people think” and another noted that while Kakko is NHL ready they think Hughes might be a “slightly better player” when they are both 25.
During the TSN Final Draft Rankings show, McKenzie said “Kakko is a physically mature winger who can play a little center if he needs to but he is primarily projected as a winger. All he has done is score goals and dominate hockey against men. He is a handful, especially from the hash marks down low, below the goal line. A tremendous player off the cycle and he can make plays score goals and is ready to make an immediate impact in the NHL and that is why a number of teams are intrigued by him and believe he is as good or better than Jack Hughes.” (TSN)
Adam Rotter: The Devils won the lottery and the chance to pick first overall but the Rangers were the team that really won by moving up to number two. It’s a two player draft at the top and the Rangers don’t have to make the tough choice at number one. Some think that Kakko would be the Rangers choice if they had number one but Jeff Gorton, John Davidson and Gordie Clark don’t have to make that decision.