Appearances can be deceiving.
Take for instance, TSN’s Top 15 2019 NHL Draft Rankings, the Lottery Edition.
American Jack Hughes is the unanimous No. 1 pick. Ten out of 10 scouts surveyed by TSN this week — on the eve of next week’s (Tuesday, April 9) NHL Draft Lottery — put Hughes in the No. 1 slot, just as they did in TSN’s preseason rankings in September and midseason rankings in late January.
So, Jack Hughes, slam-dunk No. 1 prospect for the 2019 NHL draft, correct?
Well, not so fast.
Unanimity doesn’t allow for how close the race for No. 1 has become between Hughes, the 5-foot-10, 168-pound American centre, and 6-foot-2, 194-pound Finnish forward Kaapo Kakko, who is now the most prolific under-18 goal scorer (22 in 45 games played) ever in Finland’s top professional league (eclipsing Aleksander Barkov’s 21 goals in 53 games in 2012-13).
“The difference for us, right now, is razor thin,” said one NHL team head scout. “It’s almost a coin flip, pretty much a dead heat. Really close. Call it Hughes at 51 per cent, Kakko at 49 per cent. It’s that close and that could change.”
There’s still plenty of race to be run, too, as both players will be playing high-level international hockey in April and May.