April 15, 2019
TORONTO — Center Jack Hughes of the U.S. National Team Development Program’s Under-18 Team and right wing Kaapo Kakko of Finland’s TPS maintained their No. 1 ranking among North American and international skaters, respectively, as the NHL Central Scouting Bureau today released its final rankings for the 2019 NHL Draft.
Hughes (Orlando, Fla.) averaged over two points per game in 2018-19 while leading the U.S. Under-18 Team with 25-67-92 in 43 GP this season; his 202 career points (65-143-208) in 103 GP is the most all-time in U.S. NTDP history. Hughes aims to become the eighth U.S.-born player drafted first overall and the first since Auston Matthews in 2016. His brother, Quinn Hughes, was drafted seventh overall by the Vancouver Canucks in 2018.
Kakko (Turku, Finland) scored 22 goals to lead TPS and rank tied for sixth in the Finnish Elite League this season (22-16-38 in 45 GP). At the 2019 World Junior Championship he scored Finland’s gold medal-winning goal after also winning gold with Finland at the 2018 Under 18 World Championship. Kakko aims to become the first Finnish-born player to be drafted first overall.
“The conversation for the number one overall pick has included both Kakko and Hughes since the World Juniors,” said Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr. “Kaapo Kakko had a strong performance on the world stage and has continued his impressive power forward play in the Finland Liiga, setting a new goal scoring record for draft eligible prospects. Jack Hughes set all kinds of scoring records with the U.S. NTDP Under-18 this season. He is an exceptional talent with wizardry scoring and playmaking ability which highlight his quick wit and speed.”
Joining Hughes among the top-five ranked skaters from North America are: No. 2 Bowen Byram (Cranbrook, BC), a defenseman for the Vancouver Giants (WHL); No. 3 Kirby Dach (St. Albert, AB), a center for the Saskatoon Blades (WHL); No. 4 Alex Turcotte (Elk Grove, Ill.) a center for the U.S. Under-18 Team (NTDP); and No. 5 Dylan Cozens (Whitehorse, Yukon), a center for the Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL).
Right wing Vasily Podkolzin (Moscow, Russia) of NEVA St. Petersburg (RUSSIA 2) and defenseman Victor Soderstrom (Gavle, Sweden) of BRYNAS (SWEDEN) rank second and third, respectively atop the International Skater rankings.
In the crease, Spencer Knight (Stamford, Conn.) of the U.S. Under-18 Team (NTDP) ranks as the top North American goaltender, while Pyotr Kochetkov (Penza, Russia) of Ryazan (RUSSIA-2) tops international netminders.
The final rankings feature the top 217 skaters and 31 goaltenders in North America as well as the top 135 skaters and 12 goaltenders internationally.
In its 44th year of operation, NHL Central Scouting provides evaluation and scouting of draft-eligible players to NHL member clubs. Headed by Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr, NHL Central Scouting employs seven full-time and 14 part-time scouts throughout North America. To report on prospects playing internationally, the NHL employs the services of Goran Stubb and his staff at European Scouting Services based in Finland.
Combined, NHL Central Scouting and European Scouting Services will see more than 3,000 games this season.
The 2019 NHL Draft will be held June 21-22 at Rogers Arena, home of the Vancouver Canucks, marking the third time the city of Vancouver will host the event (also 1990 and 2006).