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NHL Draft

Hughes, Kakko, Cozens featured in 'Welcome to the NHL'

Show goes behind the scenes with top picks at 2019 Draft

NHL.com @NHLdotcom

For Jack Hughes, Kaapo Kakko, Dylan Cozens and Cole Caufield, June 21 was a night they'll never forget, when Hughes and Kakko went No. 1 and No. 2 in the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, with Cozens selected No. 7 and Caufield going No. 15.

Viewers will get an inside look at how each of the four and their families dealt with draft night -- from their pre-draft preparations to their post-selection celebrations -- in "Welcome to the NHL presented by adidas," which premieres on NHL Network in the United States and Sportsnet 360 in Canada on July 2 at 7 p.m. ET, and a half-hour later on NHL.com and the League's streaming platforms. It will air on Sportsnet at 11:30 p.m. ET on July 2 and NBCSN on July 7 at 11:30 a.m. ET.

For Hughes and Kakko, the consensus top two picks in the draft, the question was which side of the Hudson River they'd be playing on. Hughes, a center with USA Hockey's National Team Development Program, is shown in a room full of family as he prepares to leave for Rogers Arena, where the New Jersey Devils chose him with the No. 1 pick. Among them is older brother Quinn, a defenseman taken by the Vancouver Canucks with the No. 7 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft.

 

[RELATED: 2019 NHL Draft coverage]

 

"They were so excited when they heard this year's draft was going to be in Vancouver," said their mother, Ellen Hughes, "especially because that's who selected Quinn last year."

Kakko is a forward who played with TPS in Liiga, Finland's top pro league last season. He admits that "of course I'd love to go No. 1," but said ending up with the New York Rangers at No. 2 would be fine. He also knows there will be a lot of eyes on him at home.

"It's big for me and all the (people) in Finland," Kakko said. "They are watching the draft and they are talking … it's a big thing. For me, I really want to go to New York City more than New Jersey."

Video: Hughes, Kakko prepare for biggest day of their lives

Cozens, a center with Lethbridge of the Western Hockey League, also has plenty of eyes on him. No player from Yukon in Canada's Northwest Territories has ever been taken in the first round of the NHL Draft.

"I know lots of people up in the Yukon are going to be watching when I go back after this," Cozens said. "It's going to be pretty crazy. It's going to be awesome. I love to be from there and I'm proud to represent it."

Caufield, a left wing and teammate of Hughes with the NTDP, can't wait to get his pro career started.

"I want to go a team that wants me and where I can play as fast as I can, go somewhere that wants me," Caufield said in the hotel lobby while getting ready to leave for the draft. "I just want to play in the National Hockey League. It's my dream."

After all the preparations, autograph signings and photos, the reality that they're taking the next step in their lives becomes more real when NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman opens the first round.

"Hundreds of young men have worked their entire lives to have the opportunity to be here for this moment, to be part of this draft and perhaps become a player in our league," Commissioner Bettman said. "Their families have sacrificed in countless ways to support their hockey careers, and now we all get the privilege of watching their dreams come true."

Hockey Hall of Fame goalie Martin Brodeur announces Hughes as the No. 1 pick by the Devils. "Welcome to the rest of your life," Commissioner Bettman said.

Video: Hughes hears Devils call name with No. 1 overall pick

The Rangers quickly take Kakko at No. 2. "Feels good Kaapo?" general manager Jeff Gorton asks during the picture taking. "Yeah," he replies. "That's how we feel too," Gorton said.

Cozens and his family are thrilled when he's selected No. 7 by the Buffalo Sabres. The smile on his face is a mile wide after he finishes a phone conversation with Sabres captain Jack Eichel.

"He said he's super-excited to have me as part of the organization," Cozens said, "and to make sure I enjoy this as much as I can because it only happens once, and it goes by so quick."

After waiting for nearly half of the first round, Caufield finds out where he'll be playing when Montreal Canadiens captain Shea Weber announces the selection.

Cozens spoke for all four players when he was asked to summarize his feelings after the biggest night of their young lives.

"I'm overwhelmed with so many different emotions," he said. "Excitement. Relief. This is something I've worked toward my whole life. Now that it's finally here and I know what team, what franchise I'll be a part of, I'm so excited."

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