It’s rare that the Devils and Rangers have something in common. But with both local teams having the first two picks in the upcoming NHL Draft, their attention is focused on June 20 along with fans.
New Jersey has the number one overall pick followed by New York at two. It’s really up to the Devils here. Who do they prefer? Top rated American prospect Jack Hughes, or top ranked European prospect Kaapo Kakko from Finland. Will they go for the smaller center in Hughes or the bigger right wing in Kakko?
Earlier this week, Kakko made a no look feed that set up a goal for Finland in a game against Sweden. It has been replayed over and over on Twitter by everyone. The Devils social media account got in on the fun. So did the Rangers with a sarcastic response.
It’s one of those odd times where both fan bases can agree on something. Fans are drooling over each prospect for good reason. They are potential franchise players that can change each rivals’ course.
I still believe the Devils will select Hughes number one. Nico Hischier is a good center who probably should become a 70-point player. Adding Hughes would give them a great 1-2 down the middle. Hughes has a higher ceiling. Unless Devils brass actually believes in Pavel Zacha, I would take the center. But they also can use the size and skill set of Kakko.
Kakko makes more sense for the Rangers. They already boast center depth with clear number one Mika Zibanejad setting career bests in goals (30), assists (44) and points (74). With a trio of promising pivots Lias Andersson, Filip Chytil and Brett Howden entering their second years, there’s no reason for the organization to add another pivot unless it’s a stop gap this summer.
The Devils have Zacha, veteran Travis Zajac and penalty killing ace Blake Coleman behind Hischier. Their hope lies in former MVP Taylor Hall to come back healthy. Hall, Hischier and Kyle Palmieri are the projected top line. That can change if they add Hughes, balancing out their roster.
The Rangers could enter ’19-20 with Zibanejad centering Chris Kreider (if he stays) and Pavel Buchnevich. They will have 2018 first round pick Vitali Kravtsov and in the fold. Either Hughes or Kakko included.
It’s a good time to be a fan of either Hudson rival. Things are looking up.