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NHL Draft

Kakko says he has 'a lot in common' with Hughes

Forward, expected to be top-two pick in 2019 NHL Draft, compares game to projected No. 1 selection

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

Kaapo Kakko, who is expected to be a top-two pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, said the projected No. 1 choice, Jack Hughes, has the edge over him in one category.

"We have a lot in common," Kakko said. "We're both very skilled players. He's an excellent skater and that's where he has the advantage. His skating looks so good and he has a great stride. But other than that, we're pretty even."

Kakko thought he did enough at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship for gold medal-winning Finland to be considered the No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft, to be held at Rogers Arena in Vancouver on June 21-22.

The 6-foot-2, 194-pound right wing scored with 1:26 remaining in the third period to give Finland a 3-2 win against the United States in the championship game at Rogers Arena on Jan. 5.

"Of course, I could have played even better, at least that's how I felt after some games," Kakko said. "I had all the tools to play better. But if you win gold at the world juniors, every player on the team can be satisfied. Being a member of a winning team and in a big role, I think that speaks for me."

The 17-year-old left-hand shot had five points (two goals, three assists) and 23 shots on goal while averaging 15:10 of ice time in seven games as the third-youngest player on Finland's roster.

Kakko has impressed with 22 points (11 goals, 11 assists) and four game-winning goals while averaging 17:38 of ice time in 29 games as the youngest player for TPS in Liiga, the top league in Finland.

Hughes (5-10, 168), 17, had four assists, and averaged 14:29 in four games for the U.S. at the WJC, but missed three games with an undisclosed injury. The left-shot center leads USA Hockey's National Team Development Program under-18 team with 56 points (13 goals, 43 assists) in 28 games. senior writer Varpu Sihvonen contributed to this story.

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