For the better half of this season, the first overall NHL Draft choice was widely believed to be Jack Hughes. But Kaapo Kakko is doing his best to change that narrative, storming into his senior Team Finland debut with six goals at the World Championships.
When asked about how his play in Slovakia could affect the upcoming draft, Kakko didn’t mince words. “This is a big thing for me for the draft,” he shared with NHL.com. “I think I can be the first pick."
The 18-year-old has posted an impressive seven points at the Worlds, with a +8 rating and 24 shots on goal through five games.
Hughes, on the other hand, has been quiet thus far for Team USA, recording his first point of the tournament with an assist Saturday morning. When asked about his fellow draft sensation, Kakko admitted he hasn’t “paid much attention to Jack Hughes and his game, but I'm confident I've been able to let everyone see my skills and the level of my game.
“It's not going to be an easy choice for the teams."
The New Jersey Devils are in possession of the No. 1 draft pick this June, and they’ve been pouring gasoline on the Kakko fire with cryptic tweets.
feeling cute, might draft one of these guys later idk pic.twitter.com/QVah6FHrZE
— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) May 13, 2019
If you’re only just getting familiar with Kakko and Hughes at this tournament, it’s easy to statistically see why the Finnish prodigy could bump Hughes out of the top spot. But don’t forget that Hughes broke Ovechkin’s career scoring record in U18 World Championships and is now situated as a third-line center on a deep Team USA roster in Slovakia.
Kakko is a part of a Finnish forward group that doesn’t feature any NHL stars, so he’s recording more minutes and special teams opportunities, giving him more chances to produce points.
We’ll have to wait until June 21 to see which young star’s name is called to the podium with the first overall pick, but for now, all we can do is simply enjoy the show at the Worlds.
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