VANCOUVER — Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko will be linked together for the rest of their careers after they were the top two picks in the 2019 NHL Draft Friday at Rogers Arena. Not only will the comparisons and debates about their play go on for years, they are now in the middle of a longtime rivalry between the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers.
“I was thinking about that this morning. And how good is that?,” said Rangers president John Davidson. “Rivalries across the river. It’s going to be talked about for a long, long, long time. I think that’s just the greatest. It’s fantastic. I think that’s what hockey needs.”
The No. 1 and No. 2 selections in the draft only met for the first time before Thursday’s top prospects media availability, but they’ll see plenty of one another as Metropolitan Division rivals. There’s no love lost when the Devils and Rangers get together, but after a few down years for the franchises this is an injection of buzz that the rivalry needed.
“They’ll be linked together. I think it’s great for the NHL, but it’s great for us,” said Devils general manager Ray Shero. “A couple years ago you had Auston Matthew and Patrik Laine. They’re great players but one’s in Toronto, one’s in Winnipeg, they play each other twice a year. Then you’ve got Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, they’re great players. One’s in Edmonton, one’s in Buffalo, they play twice a year.
“This is kind of spicy, you know? So we look forward to it. The competition’s great. … For the Rangers and Devils fans, it should be really good. That’s what we’re hoping for and we’re hoping it’s just a little bit better for the Devils.”
While the talk for years will be Jack vs. Kakko, the hockey world pitting those two against one another won’t be a factor that fuels Hughes to succeed.
“I don’t think I need any extra motivation,” said Hughes during the Stanley Cup Final. “Once you get to that level you’re in the NHL. You’re playing [Sidney] Crosby, you’re playing [Ryan] O’Reilly, you’re playing unbelievable players every night. For me, it’ll just be a lot of fun to be linked with [Kakko] for a lot of years.”