Jack Hughes

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It was the Kaapo Kakko show vs. Canada at IIHF World Championship

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Kaapo Kakko will likely wind up with the New York Rangers as the No. 2 overall pick in next month’s NHL Draft in Vancouver. On Friday, he showed why New Jersey Devils general manager Ray Shero should have second thoughts about going with Jack Hughes with the top selection.

During Finland’s 3-1 win over Canada in their opening game of the 2019 IIHF World Championship, the 18-year-old forward scored twice, including this highlight-reel goal in the first period.

Kakko’s profile on Elite Prospects tells you what we saw on that goal. 

“A quick-thinking winger, Kakko never seems to be in a rush. He reads the game exceptionally well and finds himself a step ahead while the play is still developing.”

As soon as the Thomas Chabot turnover lands on Arttu Ilomaki’s stick, Kakko takes off up ice as he sees how the play is developing. Toni Rajala’s touch pass then sends Kakko through Chabot while Brandon Montour takes a penalty in an attempt to stop him. Then the young Finnish forward shows off his edge work and smoothly beats Matt Murray for the opening goal.

The top prospect was later out on the ice as Finland defended their 2-1 lead late in the third period. Kakko, who was named “Player of the Game,” created a turnover and then finished off Canada with an empty-netter to complete his memorable night.

Kakko is eyeing history during the 2019 Worlds. If Finland wins the tournament, he would be the youngest player to ever win gold at the U18, U20 and senior World Championships.

2019 NHL DRAFT FIRST-ROUND ORDER
1. New Jersey Devils
2. New York Rangers
3. Chicago Blackhawks
4. Colorado Avalanche (from Ottawa Senators)
5. Los Angeles Kings
6. Detroit Red Wings
7. Buffalo Sabres
8. Edmonton Oilers
9. Anaheim Ducks
10. Vancouver Canucks
11. Philadelphia Flyers
12. Minnesota Wild
13. Florida Panthers
14. Arizona Coyotes
15. Montreal Canadiens
16. Colorado Avalanche
17. Vegas Golden Knights
18. Dallas Stars
19. Ottawa Senators (from Columbus Blue Jackets)
20. New York Rangers (from Winnipeg Jets)
21. Pittsburgh Penguins
22. Los Angeles Kings (from Toronto Maple Leafs)
23. New York Islanders
24. Nashville Predators
25. Washington Capitals
26. Calgary Flames
27. Tampa Bay Lightning
28. Conference final losing team with fewest points
29. Conference final losing team with most points
30. Stanley Cup Final losing team
31. Stanley Cup winner
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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Devils win 2019 NHL Draft Lottery, will select No. 1 overall

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For the second time in three years, the New Jersey Devils have won the NHL Draft Lottery. With the third-best odds heading into Tuesday night, the Devils will now select No. 1 overall in June’s entry draft and have the opportunity to select either Jack Hughes or Kaapo Kakko. Two years ago they grabbed Nico Hischier with the top pick.

There was plenty of drama in the lottery, with the Rangers and Blackhawks jumping ahead and finishing in the top three with New Jersey.

Here’s how the rest of the top 15 picks landed:

1. New Jersey Devils
2. New York Rangers
3. Chicago Blackhawks
4. Colorado Avalanche (originally owned by Ottawa)
5. Los Angeles Kings
6. Detroit Red Wings
7. Buffalo Sabres
8. Edmonton Oilers
9. Anaheim Ducks
10. Vancouver Canucks
11. Philadelphia Flyers
12. Minnesota Wild
13. Florida Panthers
14. Arizona Coyotes
15. Montreal Canadiens

Three draws were held: The first drawing determined the team picking first overall, the second drawing determined the team picking second overall and the third drawing determined the team picking third overall. Once a team was assigned a pick, it was ineligible for further participation in subsequent drawings.

The remaining positions are determined by the results of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Devils general manager Ray Shero said this week he wants to add more talent to his roster. Getting the top pick in the draft is a good start in accomplishing that. It also helped that he employs a special lucky charm.

Per Sportsnet, here’s a look at some of the top prospects who could land early in the first round:

1. Jack Hughes, C, USNTDP, 5-foot-10, 168 lbs.
2. Kaapo Kakko, RW, TPS (Liiga), 6-foot-2, 194 lbs.
3. Vasily Podkolzin, RW, SKA St. Petersburg (MHL), 6-foot-1, 190 lbs.
4. Dylan Cozens, C, Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL), 6-foot-3, 181 lbs.
5. Bowen Byram, D, Vancouver Giants (WHL), 6-foot, 194 lbs.
6. Alex Turcotte, C, USNTDP, 5-foot-11, 189 lbs.
7. Trevor Zegras, C, USNTDP, 6-foot, 166 lbs.
8. Kirby Dach, C, Saskatoon Blades (WHL), 6-foot-3, 199 lbs.
9. Matthew Boldy, LW, USNTDP, 6-foot-1, 187 lbs.
10. Peyton Krebs, C, Kootenay Ice (WHL), 5-foot-11, 180 lbs.

The Avalanche are preparing for the Stanley Cup Playoffs but owned the Senators’ 2019 first-round pick through the Matt Duchene trade last season. GM Joe Sakic is certainly happy to add No. 4 overall with wherever Colorado lands with their own pick in the final 16 selections in Round 1.

The 2019 NHL Draft will take place at Rogers Arena in Vancouver. The first round will be held Friday, June 21. Rounds 2-7 will take place Saturday, June 22.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Jack Hughes, 2019 NHL top prospect, scores brilliant solo goal (Video)

USHL / YouTube
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USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program side is off to a great start in the United States Hockey League this season. They’ve won their first four games, are the highest scoring team in the league (27) and may have already locked up goal of the season.

Jack Hughes, a 2019 NHL draft prospect, made the Green Bay Gamblers defense look mighty silly during a 6-4 win on Sunday afternoon.

At first watch, if you’re strictly paying attention to Hughes, you might think Team USA is on a power play. But then you realize there are five skaters in black despite what seems like a lot of space for the 16-year-old to work with.

Hughes, who’s tied for second in league scoring with seven points, finished with three points on the afternoon and is already being dubbed the “Next One.” We’ll be hearing a lot of his name over the next year and a half as June 2019 approaches.

“He’s a special player,” said Barrie Colts head coach Dale Hawerchuk to the Toronto Sun’s Mike Traikos last spring. Hawerchuk had planned on taking Hughes No. 1 overall in last year’s OHL draft before he decided to go the NTDP route. “He’s so fast and a such a great skater. But he’s also got great instincts. He thinks the game on another level.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.