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Hughes or Kakko would be Grade A addition for Rangers in 2019 Draft

New president Davidson says chance to select either high-end forward is 'no-lose' situation

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

NEW YORK -- John Davidson envisions a day soon when New York Rangers fans are sending chants through Madison Square Garden for either Jack Hughes or Kaapo Kakko.

"Those kids are special," Davidson said Wednesday after the press conference to introduce him as Rangers president.

The Rangers, who have the No. 2 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, to be held at Rogers Arena in Vancouver on June 21-22, figure to get one of them. The New Jersey Devils have the No. 1 pick.

 

[RELATED: Complete 2019 NHL Draft coverage]

 

Hughes, a center with USA Hockey's National Team Development Program Under-18 team, is No. 1 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters. Kakko, who plays for TPS in Liiga, Finland's top professional league, is Central Scouting's top-ranked International skater.

"When you try to grade players, you have the A's, the B's and the C's, and those are the A's," Davidson said. "The A's don't come along too often. And when you have an opportunity like this, it's one of those you can hardly wait for. Whoever becomes a Ranger, you want to start working with him right away.

"I just envision down the road, one of those two guys -- if that's who is chosen -- at Madison Square Garden becoming one of the best players on the ice and Ranger fans just having a blast watching him play. Those don't come along very often. Those are hard to find."

This will be the first time in the NHL expansion era (since 1967-68) that the Rangers will pick as high as No. 2 in the draft. Davidson never has been with a team drafting this high.

The St. Louis Blues selected as high as No. 4 (defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, 2008) during his six years as their president of hockey operations. Davidson was hired by the Blues on June 30, 2006, six days after they selected defenseman Erik Johnson with the No. 1 pick in the 2006 NHL Draft.

His highest pick in his six drafts with the Columbus Blue Jackets as their president of hockey operations was center Pierre-Luc Dubois at No. 3 in 2016. Davidson was hired by the Blue Jackets on Oct. 24, 2012, a few months after they picked defenseman Ryan Murray at No. 2 in the 2012 NHL Draft.

"It's huge in every way," Davidson said of the No. 2 pick this year. "These are the types of players that could help define a franchise. You have to make sure the timing is right, make sure they're ready, etc. But I think every Ranger fan should have a smile on their face at picking No. 2. That's something special."

The only issue is the Rangers have no idea which of the top two prospects will be available to them at No. 2. They don't expect to know until after the Devils make their selection.

Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton said he doesn't expect Devils GM Ray Shero to divulge who he is going to pick. Shero never did in advance of the 2017 NHL Draft, when the Devils had the No. 1 pick and chose center Nico Hischier ahead of center Nolan Patrick, who went No. 2 to the Philadelphia Flyers.

"Last time, when [Shero] announced it on the stage was the first time everybody found out what he was doing," Gorton said. "I expect that to be the exact same thing."

In some ways, though, Gorton and Davidson think the Rangers are in a better position than the Devils because they really don't have to decide if it'll be Hughes or Kakko, if that's the way they're leaning. The Devils will essentially choose for them.

"It's a no-lose," Davidson said.

 

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