After IIHF World Championships, will the Devils choose Kakko?
Kakko excelled at IIHF World Championship, but will that allow him to surpass Hughes as the top pick?
With the upcoming NHL Draft on the weekend of June 21, close observation of the projected top-two picks has not decreased. The hype around center Jack Hughes and right winger Kaapo Kakko is nothing new. However, Kakko’s performance at the IIHF World Championship proved that he is a strong competitor for the No. 1 pick.
Kakko started the championship strong by scoring a hat-trick in Finland’s second game and bringing his home country to a 4-2 win over Slovakia. He made a total of six goals while Hughes had just three assists throughout the tournament.
Both Hughes and Kakko have broken scoring records in their home countries. Hughes currently holds the most career points with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program, while Kakko scored the most as a U18 player for Finland’s Liiga league.
Now, Kakko has tied the record for most goals at the IIHF World Championships with Russia’s Evgenii Dadonov.
Hughes may not have been given nearly as much time per game on the ice as Kakko, but that does not take away from the fact that Kakko’s performance was absolutely captivating.
The Devils, who are picking first in the draft, have acknowledged this themselves. A clip of Kakko darting down the right wing and scoring his sixth goal of the tournament was posted on the team’s Twitter account with a caption that reads, “Oh.”
However, his performance at the championship may not be enough to surpass Hughes as the top pick.
Devils announcer Steve Cangialosi believes that the Devils will still pick Hughes because he plays center.
“I personally think there are only about 10 to 12 pivot men in that company, in the entire national hockey league. If you have a chance to draft one of them, there’s very little debate, I think internally, that you go after that player,” he said.
Even if Kakko is not chosen first, he’s still predicted to be a strong contender for the New York Rangers who are picking second. Having Kakko on the Rangers and Hughes on the Devils or vice versa will only intensify the rivalry between the two teams.
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