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NHL Draft

Mock draft: Three players in running to be picked after Hughes, Kakko

NHL.com experts split on who will be selected at No. 3

NHL.com @NHLdotcom

NHL.com writers Adam Kimelman, Mike G. Morreale and Guillaume Lepage agree center Jack Hughes and forward Kaapo Kakko will be the first two players selected at the 2019 NHL Draft, to be held at Rogers Arena in Vancouver from June 21-22.

Their opinions go in different directions after the top two players are selected.

 

[RELATED: Devils win NHL Draft Lottery]

 

Following the results of the NHL Draft Lottery on Tuesday, the three NHL.com writers made their predictions on how the first 15 picks of the draft could go.

The New Jersey Devils won the lottery and the No. 1 pick, followed by the New York Rangers and the Chicago Blackhawks.

Video: Bettman draws the lottery for this year's NHL Draft

The Colorado Avalanche, who had the best odds of winning the lottery, will pick No. 4. They acquired the selection from the Ottawa Senators as part of the trade last season for center Matt Duchene.

The remainder of the first round will be set following the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

 

1. New Jersey Devils

Kimelman -- Jack Hughes, C, USA U-18 (NTDP): An elite all-around talent who uses skill, speed and vision, rather than size (5-foot-10, 170 pounds), to intimidate. The 17-year-old led USA Hockey's National Team Development Program under-18 team with 86 points (23 goals, 63 assists) in 41 games, and his 202 points (63 goals, 139 assists) in 101 games during two seasons with the NTDP broke Clayton Keller's record of 189. Depth at center is key to becoming a perennial Stanley Cup contender, and with Nico Hischier and Hughes, the Devils will have two outstanding pieces to build around.

Morreale -- Hughes: The left-shot center is an elite skater who can think the game at top speed and has a knack for finding open areas on the ice. Hughes, who skates with Devils forward Taylor Hall in Toronto during the offseason, is the most electrifying player available at the draft. He has great hands, feet and an insatiable appetite to succeed. He'll be a franchise-defining player.

Lepage -- Hughes: With his great season and the NTDP records he has broken along the way, no team would dare pass on the opportunity to select a player with so much potential.

 

2. New York Rangers

Kimelman -- Kaapo Kakko, RW, TPS (FIN): The 18-year-old forward (6-2, 194) excelled against men in Finland's top professional league, showcasing strength and skills that belied his age. His 22 goals in 45 games are the most in Liiga history by a player 18 and under, one more than center Aleksander Barkov scored in 2012-13. Kakko has game-breaking offensive abilities, including high-end vision and hands, and can make plays at top speed. He could step right into a top-six role in the NHL next season.

Morreale -- Kakko: The left-shot forward has an excellent understanding of the game, can win 1-on-1 battles, is strong along the boards and relishes pressure situations. He scored the game-winning goal for Finland in its 3-2 win against the United States in the gold-medal game of the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship.

Lepage -- Kakko: Like Hughes, Kakko made his mark by scoring, with 38 points (22 goals, 16 assists), the third-most in Liiga history by a player age 18 or younger. An excellent piece for the Rangers in their rebuilding effort.

 

3. Chicago Blackhawks

Kimelman -- Vasili Podkolzin, RW, SKA St. Petersburg 2 (RUS-JR): A 17-year-old forward (6-1, 190) with elite offensive skills able to execute at high pace. Any team that drafts Podkolzin will need to have patience, but he likely will be worth the wait.

Morreale -- Kirby Dach, C, Saskatoon (WHL): He covers the ice well with his smarts and vision and brings a little bit of a nasty streak to his game. The 18-year-old right-shot forward has good size (6-4, 197), strength, playmaking ability and a maturity to his game, and is a legitimate offensive threat each time he has the puck.

Lepage -- Dylan Cozens, C, Lethbridge (WHL): The Blackhawks have great prospects on defense and now they have a chance to add another explosive young forward up front. The 18-year-old (6-3, 180) is one of the fastest and most threatening forwards in this year's draft class.

Video: Bowman reacts to Blackhawks' No. 3 pick

 

4. Colorado Avalanche (via Ottawa Senators)

Kimelman -- Cozens: An outstanding skater for a player his size, Cozens plays a complete game with vision and playmaking ability. He can use his size and strength to protect the puck and plays a 200-foot game. And with Nathan MacKinnon ahead of him on the depth chart at center, he won't have to worry about seeing top defensive pairs during his development at the NHL level.

Morreale -- Podkolzin: A forward with a lot of intensity and a great set of skills, Podkolzin played well enough to get into three games with a strong SKA St. Petersburg team in the Kontinental Hockey League. He has the attitude and speed to become a solid NHL player with proper development. He plays a mature game, and has a high hockey IQ, breakaway speed and strong puck-protection abilities.

Lepage -- Podkolzin: The Avalanche didn't win the first pick despite having the best odds but getting to select a dynamic player with Podkolzin's skill set is pretty good. The Russia-born forward hasn't received as much attention as his peers, but he has sparkled on the international stage.

 

5. Los Angeles Kings

Kimelman -- Trevor Zegras, C, USA U-18 (NTDP): Top center Anze Kopitar is 31 and No. 2 center Jeff Carter is 34, so it could be a good time for the Kings to start thinking about getting younger and more skilled through the middle of the ice. Zegras (6-0, 169) is an elite playmaker who can play in the middle or on the wing and was able to consistently win battles against bigger players. The 18-year-old will continue to develop at Boston University next season.

Morreale -- Bowen Byram, D, Vancouver (WHL): Byram (6-0, 193) is a threat all over the ice. The 17-year-old is able to make plays under pressure and in traffic in the defensive and neutral zones, can create plays from his blue line to the opposing goal line and log big minutes. Byram should be the first defenseman off the draft board.

Lepage -- Byram: He led Western Hockey League defensemen with 26 goals this season and was third with 71 points. The Kings have a number of good young prospects up front and now can add the draft's best defenseman.

 

6. Detroit Red Wings

Kimelman -- Byram: The Red Wings have been looking to get younger on defense and choosing the best defenseman in this year's draft is a good place to start. A left-handed shot, Byram is an outstanding skater and an offensive threat every time he's on the ice. He also uses that great speed to break up plays in the defensive zone.

Morreale -- Alex Turcotte, C, USA U-18 (NTDP): Turcotte (5-11, 185) missed 22 games with a lower-body injury but the 18-year-old still was fifth on the NTDP U-18 team with 53 points (23 goals, 30 assists) in 30 games. The University of Wisconsin commit plays a disciplined game, makes plays at top speed, has good hands, grit, and can move the puck effectively.

Lepage -- Turcotte: The left-shot center was a big offensive producer for the NTDP after being sidelined early in the season. He projects as a good center for Filip Zadina, the No. 6 pick of the 2018 NHL Draft.

 

7. Buffalo Sabres

Kimelman -- Cole Caufield, RW, USA U-18 (NTDP): Ignore Caufield's size (5-7, 162), because the 18-year-old might be the best pure goal scorer available in the draft. His 54 goals this season were one off center Auston Matthews' single-season NTDP high, and his 108 goals in two seasons at the NTDP broke forward Phil Kessel's record of 104. Seeing him lining up alongside centers Jack Eichel or Casey Mittelstadt would give the Sabres' offense a jolt from the right side that Jeff Skinner provided from the left this season. He'll play at the University of Wisconsin next season.

Morreale -- Cozens: The right-shot center will provide the Sabres with additional depth through the middle. When using his speed and attacking, Cozens is very difficult to contain. He's a fantastic skater, tough in all areas of the ice and finished tied for 10th in the Western Hockey League with 84 points (34 goals, 50 assists) in 68 regular-season games.

Lepage -- Dach: Here is a big power forward who would strengthen the Sabres down the middle. Dach not only brings size but plays at high speed and has a good touch around the net.

 

8. Edmonton Oilers

Kimelman -- Peyton Krebs, C, Kootenay (WHL): Adding offensive skill around centers Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl is a necessity for the Oilers, and the 18-year-old (5-11, 180) is an explosive skater with great vision and a high hockey IQ.

Morreale -- Victor Soderstrom, D, Brynas (SWE): The right-handed Soderstrom (5-11, 179) is one of the most improved prospects in Sweden. The 18-year-old is a solid two-way defenseman with excellent vision, creativity and an understanding of his role at both ends of the ice.

Lepage -- Zegras: He's a bit overshadowed by Hughes as the No. 2 center with the NTDP U-18 team, but Zegras is one of the most complete centers available in the draft because of his speed and his smarts.

 

9. Anaheim Ducks

Kimelman -- Thomas Harley, D, Mississauga (OHL): The Ducks have stockpiled good young forward prospects, and the focus can shift to defense with Harley. The 17-year-old left-shot defenseman stands 6-3, and at 188 pounds has a frame that should support added strength. He's an excellent two-way player with great skating ability, defends well with his stick and can carry the puck out of trouble or make a good pass out of the zone.

Morreale -- Philip Broberg, D, AIK (SWE): An offensive-minded left-handed shot who got great experience as the seventh defenseman for Sweden at the 2019 World Junior Championship. The 17-year-old (6-3, 199) moves very well for his size, has good vision, controls the game in all zones and has a great shot.

Lepage -- Krebs: The left-shot center is not as physically imposing as some of his WHL peers, but he's just as dynamic, if not more so, and has some undeniable offensive skills.

Video: Devils win Draft Lottery, Rangers and Hawks rise

 

10. Vancouver Canucks

Kimelman -- Dach: The right-shot forward has the size and strength to play on the wing and the skating ability to carry the puck through the middle of the ice. It shouldn't be too long before he could join centers Elias Pettersson and Bo Horvat and forward Brock Boeser as an offensive building block.

Morreale -- Matthew Boldy, LW, USA U-18 (NTDP): Boldy (6-2, 192) is an excellent skater with quick hands and mobility to create offense on the rush. The 18-year-old is very creative, has an excellent release and accurate shot, along with many pro-style traits. He'll attend Boston College in 2019-20.

Lepage -- Boldy: The NTDP forward could have the most threatening shot of any player available for the draft. With NHL-ready size, he works relentlessly on the forecheck and is able to create offensively.

 

11. Philadelphia Flyers

Kimelman -- Turcotte: Philadelphia has done well drafting wings, and Turcotte could fill a need for a high-skill middle-six center to go along with Sean Couturier and Nolan Patrick. Despite missing time early in the season with an injury, scouts were impressed by Turcotte's two-way ability and his skating.

Morreale -- Krebs: A player who likes to use his speed and quickness to his advantage and also is tough to contain in 1-on-1 situations, Krebs is an elite two-way player who can excel as an offensive catalyst or in a shutdown role. Krebs led Kootenay with 68 points (19 goals, 49 assists) in 64 games.

Lepage -- Soderstrom: The right-shot defenseman could be one of the most complete players available at his position. He knows how to attack, but he always is conscious defensively. He already has made the leap to the Swedish Elite League this season.

 

12. Minnesota Wild

Kimelman -- Arthur Kaliyev, RW, Hamilton (OHL): The 17-year-old (6-2, 190) is a dynamic offensive force who was fourth in the Ontario Hockey League with 51 goals. He has a rocket for a shot and can get it off from anywhere on the ice. He's also an outstanding playmaker, as evidenced by his 51 assists. Kaliyev could be the game-breaking offensive force the Wild have lacked since Marian Gaborik left in free agency after the 2008-09 season.

Morreale -- Zegras: The left-shot center has the ability to find seams in the defense, knows when to shoot, has deception in his game and is fearless. He finished second in scoring to Hughes on the NTDP U-18 team with 78 points and was second (also to Hughes) with 52 assists in 54 games. He also showed himself to be a lethal option on the power play.

Lepage -- Kaliyev: The forward was a dominant offensive player this season, his second in the OHL. Even if some aspects of his game need work, he has shown enough to impress, and potentially convince the Wild, who need raw offensive talent.

 

13. Florida Panthers

Kimelman -- Broberg: The left-shot defenseman is an elite skater who has shown he can more than hold his own against older, more developed competition in the Swedish Hockey League. He projects to be a top-four defensemen, maybe as soon as 2020-21. For a Panthers team stocked with young forwards, a top-end puck-moving defenseman like Broberg is the perfect fit.

Morreale -- Spencer Knight, G, USA U-18 (NTDP): The Panthers need solid goalie prospects in their system and the 17-year-old is considered one the best in years. A Boston College recruit, Knight (6-3, 192) rarely is out of position, has great instincts, is efficient in his movements and consistently square to the shooter.

Lepage -- Cameron York, D, USA U-18 (NTDP): With all the attention given to the NTDP U-18 forwards, the defensemen tend to get overlooked. But there are good prospects at the position and the 18-year-old (5-11, 175), a left-handed shot, has been the quarterback of a dominant team and has good offensive potential at the pro level. He's committed to the University of Michigan next season.

 

14. Arizona Coyotes

Kimelman -- Boldy: The Coyotes' search for scoring could lead them to Boldy, a left-shot forward with great hands and a dynamic scoring touch that produced 30 goals, second to Caufield on the NTDP U-18 team. Boldy may not have blazing speed, but he's smart and knows how to find open ice to produce.

Morreale -- Kaliyev: The forward has an NHL-caliber shot and a high hockey IQ. He finished sixth in the OHL with 102 points (51 goals, 51 assists) and was second with 20 power-play goals. He's a powerful skater below the dots in the offensive zone and knows how to get open to create chances.

Lepage -- Ryan Suzuki, C, Barrie (OHL): The Coyotes love smart players and the 17-year-old Suzuki (6-0, 176) is one of them. They will not be able to resist the right-shot center, who finds passing lanes that the majority of players do not see.

 

15. Montreal Canadiens

Kimelman -- Suzuki: The younger brother of Canadiens forward prospect Nick Suzuki, a first-round pick (No. 13) of the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017 who was acquired in the trade for forward Max Pacioretty, Ryan could be the better prospect. He has top-end hockey sense, vision and playmaking abilities, along with being a strong skater.

Morreale -- Ville Heinola, D, Lukko (FIN): The 18-year-old (5-11, 178) is an excellent skater with hockey sense and playmaking ability. Heinola was consistently going the right direction and he'll play a big role for his country at the 2019 IIHF World Under-18 Championship in Sweden later this month. Heinola plays in all situations as an 18-year-old in Finland's top pro league, has good hockey sense and the patience to make plays with confidence.

Lepage -- Broberg: It's hard to find a big defenseman who is as comfortable on his skates as Broberg. A left-handed shot, he carries the puck with remarkable ease and knows how to spot his teammates in the offensive zone.

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