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DRAFT: Breaking the Tie

The Devils will settle the debate between Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko when they announce their first-overall selection tonight

by Peter Robinson / Special to

VANCOUVER, BC - Quinn Hughes has mere hours before he becomes the second-highest NHL Draft pick in his own family.

Video: DRAFT | Jack Hughes Day Before Draft

"It's easy to respect him because of what (Jack) has done and the way he carries himself," said the Vancouver Canucks defenceman, who is 17 months older than his middle brother Jack, who will be selected in the first two picks tonight in Vancouver. 

"I wish I could (play tour guide) but he's so busy…it's a really busy, special time for him and my little brother Luke and our family."

Thursday was the proverbial calm before the storm. Jack Hughes was the leading attraction at both a youth clinic and the prospects media availability held in this picturesque Pacific coast city. The Devils and the 30 other NHL clubs get down to the brass tacks when the club's hockey operations group steps to the microphone and announces the selection. 

"Vancouver is a pretty cool spot," said Jack Hughes, himself a portrait in youthful swagger while perched on the upper deck of a boat moored in Vancouver harbor, his face behind a pair of sunglasses in the glaring sunshine. 

"You look forward to this for so many years. This year (the Draft) was pretty much in the back of my mind every day. When I closed my eyes that's what I was thinking about. Now that it's finally here I'm going to enjoy. It's going to awesome for my family and for me too." 

And it will be awesome for either the Devils or New York Rangers, who pick at No. 2, as Hughes projects as a future top-flight NHLer, with remarkable skills, vision and the ability to make sound decisions at pace, a skill that is becoming increasingly important as the game trends faster, leaner and younger.

"A natural-born killer," said Red Line Report, an independent scouting newsletter that is based in Lake Placid in its final report. "Hughes has got devastating (offensive) instincts."

Speaking on background in his role as the head of the NHL's Central Scouting Bureau, Dan Marr was glowing in his praise of Hughes. 

"The top two guys are exceptional players," said Marr, who worked in a scouting capacity for both the Toronto Maple Leafs and Atlanta Thrashers before moving to the NHL office almost a decade ago. "No matter what happens New Jersey is going to get a (special) player."

Central Scouting doesn't pick between who it puts No. 1 on its North American and European lists. Therefore, Hughes and Finnish forward Kaapo Kakko were at the top of their respective ledger when Marr and his staff produced its final ranking about six weeks ago. 

Devils GM Ray Shero and his staff will break the tie on Friday night.

Hughes and Kakko do not know one another. They've shaken hands and played against one another in this year's World Junior in Vancouver and at the senior World Championship in Slovakia last month. Kakko, famously, scored the winning goal that gave his country the gold medal over the U.S., and then helped Finland win the men's title over Team Canada that included the Devils Damon Severson and Mackenzie Blackwood (Hughes helped the U.S. earlier defeat Finland in overtime in pool play). 

Hughes acknowledged the odd juxtaposition of being so close but also so geographically far from his rival to go No. 1 overall, and the scenario of soon playing so near to each other when the New York Rangers then picks No. 2.  

Once separated by an ocean, Hughes and Kakko stand to be just seven miles across the river as pros. 

"We'll be linked together for a long time," said Hughes, "it will be a lot of fun."

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