After months of speculation and mock drafts, the NHL held the real thing out west in Vancouver on June 21st and to nobody’s great surprise the New Jersey Devils used the first overall pick on Jack Hughes. The 18-year-old center hails from Orlando, Florida and becomes just the eighth U.S.-born player to go number one.
The 5-foot-10-inch, 160lb Hughes most recently skated with the USA Hockey National Development Program and set records for the organization in assists with 154 and points at 228. He notched 112 points in 50 games this season and added 48 points in 24 contests in the USHL. Hughes is also a fine playmaker with speed to burn.
The @NJDevils select Jack Hughes with the first overall pick!
Here’s what they’re getting ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/HXeLne1vqo
— NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) June 22, 2019
With Hughes going first, it was obvious the New York Rangers would take 6-foot-2-inch, 195 lb Finnish winger Kaapo Kakko with the second overall pick. Kakko gave Hughes a run for the money down the stretch due to his excellent play at the IIHF World Championships and could arguably end up being a better pro player then the young American. Kakko helped his homeland win the gold medal at the World Under-18, the World Junior and World Championships this season. He also chipped in with 22 goals and 35 points in 45 outings while playing in the Finnish Elite League with TPS.
Heavily debated as the No. 1 pick in the 2019 #NHLDraft. Only time will tell where Kaapo Kakko lands.
— NHL (@NHL) June 20, 2019
The Chicago Blackhawks held the third pick and they took center Kirby Dach of the WHL’s Saskatoon, Blades. It’s obvious the Hawks were seeking size and skill as Dach stands 6-feet-4-inches tall and notched 73 points in his 62 games this year.
Get to know the newest Blackhawk, Kirby Dach!
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) June 22, 2019
The Colorado Avalanche picked fourth which came courtesy of the Ottawa Senators as a part of the Matt Duchene trade last season. Colorado then selected 6-foot-1-inch defenseman Bowen Byram of the Vancouver Giants in the WHL. The offensive-minded Byarm scored over a point-per game this year in the regular-season and the playoffs.
The Los Angeles Kings took 5-foot-11-inch, 195 lb center Alex Turcotte of the USNTDP with the fifth pick. Turcotte notched close to two points a game for the USNTDP and over two a contests playing in the USHL. He’ll be playing at the University of Wisconsin in 2019/20.
The biggest shock wave at the proceedings came when the Detroit Red Wings chose German blue liner Moritz Seider with the sixth overall selection after he was projected to go between 15 and 20. The 6-foot-3-inch 205 lb rearguard played with Mannheim in the top league of Germany and notched a pair of goals and half a dozen points in 29 contests this season. However, his stock apparently rose by scoring twice in two outings at the World Championships. Seider becomes the third-highest drafted German player in NHL history and just the seventh to be taken in the first round.
Forward Dylan Cozens of the WHL’s Lethbridge Hurricanes went seventh overall to the Buffalo Sabres and became the first player to hail from the Yukon to be drafted. Cozens played 68 games with Lethbridge this season and posted 84 points.
The Edmonton Oilers followed by choosing defenseman Philip Broberg of Skelleftea AIK in Sweden eighth overall. He played for several teams last year and registered 17 points.
The number nine pick went to the Anaheim Ducks and they selected two-way forward Trevor Zegras of the USNTDP. He posted nine points in five games at the Under-18 Championships and will be playing at Boston University when the new season starts.
The hometown Vancouver Canucks selected forward Vasili Podkolzin from Russian club SKA-Neva with the tenth overall pick. He’s also under contract in Russia for the next two seasons.
The Arizona Coyotes took blue liner Victor Soderstrom from Brynas IF in Sweden at number 11 while the Minnesota Wild chose winger Matthew Boldy from the USNTDP with the 12th pick. Boldy scored 124 points this year in 92 games and will also be playing with Boston College in the upcoming season.
The Florida Panthers are preparing themselves for the day veteran goaltender Roberto Luongo retires as they selected goaltender Spencer Knight from the USNTDP at number 13. Knight is the first goalie in the last seven years to be taken in the first round.
The Philadelphia Flyers chose defender Cameron York from the USNTDP at number 14 while his American teammate, right-winger Cole Caufield went to the Montreal Canadiens at 15.
The Colorado Avalanche had another first-round pick at number 16 and used it to select center Alex Newhook of the BCHL’s Victoria Grizzlies. Newhook posted 102 points this year in 53 outings in Junior A and he’s another player who will be skating with Boston College next campaign.
The Vegas Golden Knights got in on the action by taking forward Peyton Krebs of the WHL’s Kootenay Ice at number 17. The Dallas Stars picked next and chose defenseman Thomas Harley from the Mississauga Steelheads of the OHL.
The Ottawa Senators chose 19th and continued their rebuild by selecting defenseman Lassi Thomson from the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL. However, Thomson is expected to be playing in Finland next season with Ilves.
The Winnipeg Jets may have realized they made a mistake by recently trading rearguard Jacob Trouba to the New York Rangers and selected defenseman Ville Heinola from Finnish club Lukko as a possible replacement.
The 21st overall selection was owned by the Pittsburgh Penguins and they used it to take forward Samuel Poulin of Sherbrooke Phoenix of the QMJHL. He’s the first player from the Quebec league to be drafted this year and fans may remember his father Patrick Poulin, a former NHL’er.
The Los Angeles Kings also had another first-round pick and chose defenseman Tobias Bjornfot of Swedish side Djurgardens IF J20 at number 22. The Kings received this pick from the Toronto Maple Leafs when they shipped defenseman Jake Muzzin east.
The New York Islanders took winger Simon Holmstrom from HV71 in Sweden at number 23 even though he missed most of the season with injuries.
The Nashville Predators selected speedy center Philip Tomasino of the OHL’s Niagara IceDogs next and the Washington Capitals chose center Connor McMichael from the OHL’s London Knights at number 25.
The second QMJHL player to be drafted in 2019 was winger Jakob Pelletier and the Moncton Wildcats player went 26th overall to the Calgary Flames.
The Presidents’ Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lightning took winger Nolan Foote from the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets at number 27 while the Carolina Hurricanes selected center Ryan Suzuki of the OHL’s Barrie Colts 28th. Ryan is the brother of top prospect Nick Suzuki of the Montreal Canadiens. Ryan is also a former number-one overall pick in the OHL.
The Anaheim Ducks took winger Brayden Tracey from the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors at number 29 after he posted 81 points this season in 66 games. The Boston Bruins selected big, fast center John Beecher from the USNTDP with the 30th pick and he’s expected to play in the NCAA this season.
The Buffalo Sabres wound up the first round by selecting defenseman Ryan Johnson from the Sioux Falls Stampede of the USHL at number 31. His father Craig was a former NHL player.
As far as trades during the first round of the draft, it was basically pretty quiet on the western front as the only deal saw the Arizona Coyotes trade their first-round and second-round draft pick to the Philadelphia Flyers. This allowed the Coyotes to move up three spots in the order from 14th to 11th where they chose Swedish blue liner Victor Soderstrom.
However, there were some major moves on day two of the draft on June 22nd as 30-year-old defenseman PK Subban was dealt from the Nashville Predators to the New Jersey Devils for defenders Jeremy Davies and Steven Santini along with a second-round draft pick in 2019 and 2020. Subban posted 31 points in 63 games this season and was moved because of his salary cap hit of $9 million. General manager David Poile will try to lock up some forward talent with the money freed up from the trade and could take a shot at free agent Matt Duchene of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Vancouver Canucks acquired forward J.T. Miller in a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning by sending goaltender Marek Mazanec down to Florida along with a third-round draft pick this year and a conditional first-rounder in 2020. If Vancouver fails to make the postseason in 2019/20 then the first rounder changes hands in 2021. The 26-year-old Miller notched 13 goals and 42 points last season.
The Toronto Maple Leafs also freed up some much-needed salary space by trading 39-year-old veteran forward Patrick Marleau to the Carolina Hurricanes for a sixth-round pick in 2020. The Leafs also had to send a conditional first-round selection and a seventh-rounder to Carolina. If the Leafs first-rounder next year is in the top 10 then Carolina will get the pick in 2021 instead.
Marleau’s salary-cap hit is $6.25 million this year but his actual salary is approximately $1.5 million. The Leafs need the money to re-sign restricted free agent forwards Mitch Marner, Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson and possibly unrestricted free agent blue liner Jake Gardiner. Marleau scored 16 goals and 21 assists this season and added two helpers in seven playoff games. The 16 goals were his lowest total since his rookie campaign.