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The 2018/19 NHL season ended in historic fashion, with the St Louis Blues winning the Stanley Cup for the first time ever. It’s all about 2019/20 now though and the draft during June led to the usual excitement as teams picked up new talent. However some sides clearly had the choice selection and it is the expectations for these players that this article will look at.
The player who was highest ranked by the scouting agencies ahead of this summer’s draft was Jack Hughes and the New Jersey Devils benefited from winning the draft lottery by having first pick and taking him. The 18-year-old centre is a seriously exciting talent who was named best forward for the IIHF World Under 18 Championships last year, before going on to set a new goal scoring record at this year’s tournament. He is a playmaker who is capable of thinking at speed, as well as scoring, and the 228 points and 154 assists he provided during his two seasons in the USA Hockey National Development Program is also a record. Despite his youth, Hughes is expected to go straight into the Devils line-up at the start of this season and he can’t fail to improve a team that finished third from last in 2018/19.
While Hughes was undoubtedly the hottest name in this year’s draft, Kaapo Kakko was only just behind him. He was the highest ranked European skater in the draft and was snapped up by the New York Rangers who had second overall draft pick. Again the Rangers benefited from a disappointing 2018/19 season and the draft lottery to grab the 18-year old from Finland who can play either at centre or right wing. Rangers’ fans are anticipating big things from Kakko, but it is important to remember that he is still very young. He starred for his country in this year’s World Junior Ice Hockey Championships, scoring the goal that won the gold for Finland, and managed 22 goals, 16 assists and 38 points for TPS last season. The Rangers need to nurture him carefully to avoid repeating the mistakes they made with Lias Andersson.
The third ranked player was centre Kirby Dach and he is now with the Chicago Blackhawks. Although the Blackhawks do not really have space for him in the first or second lines, he could slot in to either the third or the fourth line centre this season. There are argumentsfor and against putting him in straight away, with the plus points being that he will get valuable experience and could form a potent partnership with Jonathan Toews. The main argument against is that fans may get on his back if he doesn’t make an immediate impact because the expectations are high at a club like the Blackhawks. This could damage his confidence.
These players are all potential NHL stars and now we will get some idea of whether they can live up to that billing.