Center Jack Hughes of the U.S. National Team Development Program's Under-18 Team and right wing Kaapo Kakko of Finland's TPS rank No. 1 among North American and international skaters, respectively, as the NHL Central Scouting Bureau today released its mid-season rankings.
Hughes (Orlando, Fla.) is averaging 1.96 points per game while leading the U.S. Under-18 Team with 12-41-53 in 27 GP this season. He was named USA Hockey's Dave Tyler Junior Player of the Year in 2018 after finishing third on the U.S. Under-18 Team with 27-41-68 in 36 GP. Hughes aims to become the eighth U.S.-born player drafted first overall and the first since Auston Matthews in 2016. His brother, Quintin Hughes, was drafted seventh overall by the Vancouver Canucks in 2018.
"Hughes is in a special class all his own for the 2019 NHL Draft and the best is yet to come," said Director of NHL Central Scouting Dan Marr. "He is an exceptional skater who plays the game with speed and quickness, both with and without the puck. He possesses a package of skills and smarts that place him in the category of being a game-changer - his hockey sense is excellent, and his skill level is elite with the precision and quickness in which he can execute plays."
Kakko (Turku, Finland) scored Team Finland's gold medal-winning goal at the 2019 World Junior Championship after also winning gold with Finland at the 2018 Under‑18 World Championship. He is tied for fifth on TPS in the Finnish Elite League with 9-11-20 in 28 GP this season and was named MVP of Finland's top junior league in 2017-18 after registering 25-30-55 in 38 GP with TPS' junior club.
"Kakko is an exceptional skilled power forward package who is in his second season playing a big role on the top team (TPS) in the Finnish league, where he has shown impressive versatility playing both wing and center," said Marr. "He is strong on the puck and to the net, and has proven he is battle-ready competing on the world stage - one of the few players who has the potential to make the jump to the NHL next season."
Joining Hughes atop the North American skaters list are a trio from the Western Hockey League: No. 2 Kirby Dach (St. Albert, Alta.), a center for the Saskatoon Blades (WHL); No. 3 Dylan Cozens (Whitehorse, Yukon), a center for the Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL); and No. 4 Bowen Byram (Cranbrook, B.C.), a defenseman for the Vancouver Giants (WHL). U.S. Under-18 Team (NTDP) center Alex Turcotte (Elk Grove, Ill.), son of former NHLer Alfie Turcotte, rounds out the top five ranked North American skaters.
Right wing Vasili Podkolzin (Moscow, Russia) of SKA St. Petersburg (RUSSIA‑JR) and defenseman Philip Broberg (Orebro, Sweden) of AIK (SWEDEN-2) rank second and third, respectively, among international skaters.
In the crease, Spencer Knight (Stamford, Conn.) of the U.S. Under-18 Team (NTDP) ranks as the top North American goaltender, while Pyotr Kochetkov (Penza, Russia) of Ryazan (RUSSIA-2) tops international netminders.
The mid-season rankings feature the top 217 skaters and 31 goaltenders in North America as well as the top 130 skaters and 12 goaltenders internationally.
In its 44th year of operation, NHL Central Scouting provides evaluation and scouting of draft-eligible players to NHL member clubs. Headed by Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr, NHL Central Scouting employs seven full-time and 14 part-time scouts throughout North America. To report on prospects playing internationally, the NHL employs the services of Goran Stubb and his staff at European Scouting Services based in Finland.
Combined, NHL Central Scouting and European Scouting Services will see more than 3,000 games this season.
The 2019 NHL Draft will be held June 21-22 at Rogers Arena, home of the Vancouver Canucks, marking the third time the city of Vancouver will host the event (also 1990 and 2006).