Two names that the NHL has heard a lot about in 2019 are Kaapo Kakko and Jack Hughes. These two players have the potential to be superstars in the NHL for many years to come. Lucky for New York sports fans, it just so happens that they will probably be selected by the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers on June 21st. However, there is a major discussion on which player will go number one overall.
Many hockey fans and analysts have discussed who’s going to be the better player and why. However, it’s hard to compare players that are different positions, albeit offensive ones. The Rangers were lucky enough to snag the second-overall pick in the upcoming NHL Draft, but will they be lucky enough to draft a player that can hopefully change the entire franchise?
A knock on Jack Hughes as a prospect is that he is about four inches shorter than Kakko. In today’s hockey, size doesn’t mean as much, but it’s crucial to look at all factors before deciding who to draft. When you have a top-2 selection in the NHL Draft, that pick is expected to be a franchise player. About twenty years ago, physicality was an important aspect of the game. Today, speed and finesse is emphasized to build a winning culture, but there are still players that are more “old school”. Matt Martin and Ryan Reeves use their pure brawn to demolish anyone in their path. When you have an undersized player like Hughes, he can get bullied by the more physical players. Kakko has a large enough frame to be able to handle the pressure from strong opposition.
If you take a look at the IIHF World Hockey Tournament, the difference in stats are completely noticeable. Kakko tallied five goals in the first two games of the tournament, even making highlight reel plays. All the while, Hughes didn’t really do anything that would make the casual hockey fan stop and look. However, Team Finland isn’t with as many NHL talent than Team USA USA has a star studded roster, with the likes of Patrick Kane, Chris Kreider, Jack Eichel, and Alex DeBrincat, meaning Jack Hughes is playing on the fourth line. Hughes wasn’t getting nearly as much ice-time as Kakko, so it’s understandable for Kakko to have the more impressive stat line.
Personally, I would select Kakko over Hughes. I understand that most of the hockey world views Jack Hughes as the consensus number one overall pick, but I still predict Kakko to be the better NHLer. If Hughes can grow into his body and work to reach his ceiling, I sure would be happy to see him with the Rangers this October.