Rotoworld NHL mock draft: Is Kakko catching up to Hughes?

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With just hours to go now until the New Jersey Devils make the opening selection in the 2019 NHL Draft, Rotoworld’s latest mockup of the proceedings that begin on Friday (8 p.m. ET on NBCSN) has American Jack Hughes heading east.

Ryan Wagman’s picks are filtered through the McKeens Hockey scouting staff and the latest mock draft leans heavily on their evaluations.

And there’s no surprise at No. 1 or No. 2.

Jack Hughes has been the consensus No. 1, even if the gap has shrunk.

“But there is still daylight between the two figured,” Wagman writes. “The best-case scenario here is Patrick Kane as a center. The worst-case scenario (realistic worst case – still assuming general health) is Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Hughes will play in the NHL from day one, will be in the top six by mid-season and a superstar by year two of his career.”

Finland’s Kaapo Kakko then becomes the easiest pick of the draft, according to Wagman.

“There are only two plausible answers for the top two picks of the draft, and I believe that Hughes at #1 is around an 85% certainty at this point,” he writes. “So on the 15% chance that the Devils don’t take Hughes, the Rangers surely do. But in most reasonable scenarios, Hughes is gone and the Rangers have nothing to do but to select Finnish power winger Kaapo Kakko. Physically, Kakko may be more ready for the NHL right now than Hughes, but the upside is still a little bit lower. He could fit anywhere in the Rangers lineup from day one, and has a clear projection as a long-term first liner beginning in the near future.”

From there, the rest of the field gets going.

Here are picks No. 3 thru 10 on Rotoworld’s mock draft:

3. Chicago Blackhawks – Alex Turcotte, C, USNTDP (USHL)
4. Colorado Avalanche (from Ottawa Senators and the Matt Duchene trade) – Kirby Dach, C, Saskatoon (WHL)
5. Los Angeles Kings  –  Bowen Byram, D, Vancouver (WHL)
6. Detroit Red Wings – Trevor Zegras, C, USNTDP (USHL)
7. Buffalo Sabres – Matthew Boldy, LW, USNTDP (USHL)
8. Edmonton Oilers – Dylan Cozens, C, Lethbridge (WHL)
9. Anaheim Ducks – Cole Caufield, RW, USNTDP (USHL)
10. Vancouver Canucks – Peyton Krebs, C, Kootenay (WHL)

Liam McHugh and Kathryn Tappen will host coverage alongside Emmy Award-winning analyst Pierre McGuire and NHL Insiders Bob McKenzie, Craig Button and Darren Dreger.

Round 1 order
1. New Jersey
2. NY Rangers
3. Chicago
4. Colorado (from OTT)
5. Los Angeles
6. Detroit
7. Buffalo
8. Edmonton
9. Anaheim
10. Vancouver
11. Philadelphia
12. Minnesota
13. Florida
14. Arizona
15. Montreal
16. Colorado
17. Vegas
18. Dallas
19. Ottawa (from CBJ)
20. Winnipeg (from NYR)
21. Pittsburgh
22. Los Angeles (from TOR)
23. NY Islanders
24. Nashville
25. Washington
26. Calgary
27. Tampa Bay
28. Carolina
29. Anaheim (from SJS-BUF)
30. Boston
31. Buffalo (from STL)

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck.

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