As we draw closer to the 2019 NHL Draft, newjerseydevils.com will continue to cover some of the top draft-eligible prospects. On location in Buffalo, NY at the 2019 NHL Scouting Combine, Devils Senior Director of Player Personnel Dan MacKinnon discussed the type of players Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko are. The forwards are projected to be the first two players off the board on June 21 in Vancouver. Here are some of MacKinnon's thoughts on the Devils holding the first-overall pick and more.
Video: DRAFT | 1-on-1 with Dan MacKinnon
On how this draft is different for the Devils:
"It's a special year, as everybody knows. You're going to get a transformational player at one or two who should be able to help the team immediately and that's just not always the case in every draft season as we know. We're very lucky to have that number one pick this year and to make the decision between two really special players."
On Kaapo Kakko's talent:
"I've described Kakko for me as one of the very best low offensive zone power forwards I've seen at his age in a long, long time. That left shot coming off the right side, has man-strength, instincts, reads off the puck very well and can get to the inside against men as we saw at the Worlds and he has the natural scoring ability. Not saying other parts of his game aren't at a very high level but that's what he does at an elite, elite level - that sort of game below the faceoff circles in the offensive zone."
On Kakko off the ice:
"Not to use cliches to describe Scandinavian players, but he's humble, respectful, thoughtful in how he answers questions and he does fit that profile that we've seen so often in the NHL with Swedish and Finnish players. They're team-first players, they're competitors, they have hockey IQ, they play the team game in terms of the give-and-go game and sharing the puck."
Video: MSG | Panel discusses Hughes vs. Kakko
On Jack Hughes' style:
"He's electric. Just electric. Again, you have to go back a long time and, for me, it's been 20 years, to find many comparables for Jack Hughes in terms of how he transports the puck with speed and individual skill but at the same time has an incredible awareness of everyone else on the ice around him. When you combine those two things, the give-and-go game and knowing where everyone is but also the individual skill to sort of slip through small spaces, it's a pretty lethal package."
On Hughes off the ice:
"Well, he grew up in a hockey family. His parents were both highly successful athletes. He obviously has an older brother who is a talent and has been through the pressures of being a top prospect. I think he's extremely well grounded and there are no surprises in terms of the process of what he's going through, which allows him to come across as a pretty mature young man and I think he is a mature young man. But there's no question having that family unit to support him with the experiences that have come before him has helped him."