The 2019 NHL Draft will be held in Vancouver, B.C. June 21-22
1. New Jersey Devils--C, Jack Hughes
General Managers and Team Presidents are feverishly looking to find the horseshoe that Devils GM Ray Shero has hidden. Actually, it's no real secret as winger Taylor Hall seems to be that lottery shoe. Hall, once with Edmonton, was the first of three consecutive first-overall picks for the Oilers (2010-12) with Hall and the Oil also having the incredible luck of winning the McEichel Sweepstakes in 2015 for Connor McDavid. Since Hall has been in New Jersey they've won the lottery twice in three years. In 2017 the Devils moved from fifth-overall to No. 1 and selected center Nico Hischier who had a 52-point season and helped Jersey break a five year playoff drought. Shero and Hall were at it again this time moving from No. 3 to No. 1 and although it's a difficult decision, Shero finds it too hard to pass on center Jack Hughes giving him a one-two punch down the middle for years to come. And for 2020 pending free agent Hall? There won't be many places he'll be able to go where he can command a premium and have two elite centers to work with on a team that shouldn't have cap problems for at least a few years down the road when they could be contenders. Then again the possible UFA might be offered an extra premium from another team in need of lottery luck too.
2. NY Rangers--RW, Kaapo Kakko
And you thought Washington Capitals captain Alexander Ovechkin took his Stanley Cup celebration to an extreme? Although he's just about half Ovechkin's age, Kakko (and Team Finland) enjoyed the 2019 IIHF World Championship with a party featuring 50,000 fans and accompanied by Finnish president Sauli Niinistöer. The 18 yr. old then spent the entire length of the NHL Scouting Combine enjoying the moment and the Rangers were still looking for him days later. Rumor had it that Kakko was enjoying the deliciousness of lakka and mesimarja while searching for celebrators willing to take a dip in every water fountain in Finland. One would think the fuzz surrounding that celebration will wear off once the Rangers call his name at No. 2 overall in a couple weeks. Then again, maybe not.
3. Chicago Blackhawks--C, Alex Turcotte
Back in 2007, the Blackhawks finished 26th in the league but won the NHL Lottery and moved up the maximum four spots to select future Hall of Famer Patrick Kane No. 1 overall. Although it might be a tad less satisfying this year while making an even bigger leap from 12th to 3rd overall, getting up to that spot gives them an opportunity to select Chicago native Turcotte, who many feel could eventually replace another future Hall of Famer in Jonathan "Captain Serious" Toews. The choices are many here and the words "perfect fit" might be taboo in many situations but not for the Blackhawks. There's just too much of a highly skilled, two-way game in Turcotte to pass up and after a year or two in college, just like his idol Toews, Turcotte should bring his "sandpaper and silk" (according to USNTDP coach John Wroblewski, via Corey Pronman) to the NHL.
4. Colorado Avalanche (via Ottawa)--D, Bowen Byram
Normally, one would feel bad for a team like Ottawa, who finished last in he league and ended up with the fourth-overall pick in the draft because of the lottery. However, since the Senators traded away a first-rounder in the Matt Duchene deal and chose this to be the year give the Colorado Avalanche the pick, it worked out relatively well as they didn't hand the Avs one of two elite prospects. Could you imagine the Avs adding Hughes or Kakko to a forward group that includes Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Miko Rantenen plus a few emerging star role players? Neither can I and it worked out best for both the Sens and the hockey world. That said, adding the best available player in Byrum to the a stable of younins that's loaded with forwards along with two premier d-prospects, will alter their defense in the near-mid term and allow them to ice a top-notch blueline without tapping into the talent they have up front. 'Lanche Executive VP and Hockey Hall of Famer Joe Sakic has himself a scary team moving forward.
5. Los Angeles Kings--RW, Vasili Podkolzin
The Kings were big and played a heavy game when they won two Stanley Cups in 2012 and 2014 but they're older and slower and it's time for rebuild or reboot in Los Angeles. The process is underway right now and drafting the boom or bust Podkolzin, who's contracted to play in the KHL the next two seasons, won't harm that process. At 6'1" 190 lbs, the right-winger has room to grow into his frame and become an even stronger powerforward. He's only 17 yrs. old and will be so at the conclusion of this year's draft so some of the negatives thrown his way when it comes to personality and demeanor may be a product of an extremely talented kid who needs to mature a bit. The Washington Capitals asked Podkolzin if he could sing during their interview with him at the NHL Draft Combine last week and methinks he'll be humming Good Vibrations in SoCal when he's selected by the Kings three days before his 18th birthday.