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Top prospects meet with media on eve of NHL Draft

Knight, Turcotte, Byrum among prospects with first round aspirations

by Jamie Thomas @JamieThomasTV / WinnipegJets.com

VANCOUVER, British Columbia - In just over 24 hours commissioner Gary Bettman will begin the 2019 NHL Draft with the consensus being that American Jack Hughes will go first overall to the New Jersey Devils.

Thursday afternoon 10 of the top prospects gathered on a yacht for their final media availability.

Finnish born winger Kaapo Kakko made a late season push to get his name in the conversation to be chosen first. Kakko and Winnipeg Jets sniper Patrik Laine share the same agent (Mike Liut) and also have worked out together in Finland. Laine told JetsTV during the 2018-19 season that he felt Kakko was good enough to go first in the draft.

Video: DRAFT | Kaapo Kakko

"I think he wanted to be number one and I do also," said Kakko when asked about Laine's support.

Kakko had an incredible season including winning the Under-18s, the World Juniors, and the World Championship. He's also become NHL ready while dealing with being diabetic and having Celiac disease.

WHO WILL GO THIRD?

With Hughes and Kakko being the top two prospects, many feel the draft will truly begin at the third pick, held by the Chicago Blackhawks. The Hawks have many options with Vancouver Giants offensive defenceman Bowen Byrum, Lethbridge Hurricanes forward Dylan Cozens (a big smooth skating centre), and another centre from the United States National Team Development Program, Alex Turcotte. 

Turcotte is from the Chicago area and said he wants to go as high as he can in the draft.

Video: DRAFT | Alex Turcotte

"No one dreams of going four or five but if you can go three that would be great," said Turcotte who is a big fan of Winnipeg native Jonathan Toews. "At the same time I don't really care. I'd be happy to go anywhere and I'm just looking forward to it. I guess we are just going to have to wait and see what happens."

CRANBROOK WILL MISS THE ICE

Byrum is from Cranbrook, BC and started to love the game of hockey because of the WHL's Kootenay Ice. The Ice have relocated to the Manitoba capital in time for the 2019-20 season.

"It's tough for the community but at the end of the day there will be another team come through some time soon for sure," said Byrum. 

"I'm confident in that so it's tough to lose the Ice but like I said I'm sure something will be in there relatively soon."

Video: DRAFT | Bowen Byram

FINALLY A GOALIE IN THE FIRST ROUND

Vezina Trophy winner Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning was the last goaltender selected in the draft's top 20 (he went 19th at the 2012 NHL Draft). Seven years later it seems that Spencer Knight of the USNTDP will end the drought for his position. 

Draft experts on NHL.com have Knight going 13th overall to the Florida Panthers and if he does indeed go in the first round, Knight will be proud of his accomplishment.

"It would be pretty cool if it does happen," said Knight.

"I think I've put myself in a pretty good spot so obviously I'm going to take it all in."

Video: DRAFT | Spencer Knight

Goaltenders tend to stick up for one another and clearly the fact that teams are shying away from the position with their first round picks is a tough topic.

"I understand but the thing is it's a very magnified position," said Knight.

"The mistakes are obvious and if you select a goalie it's seen as a big thing in the first round but it's like, they're players too right?"

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