We've reached the final set of games in the 2018-19 NHL season. For some teams, this means it's time to move on to the playoffs. For others, it's time to officially turn to the offseason and to start preparing for the entry draft.
Though the draft is still more than two months away—it kicks off on June 21—it isn't too early for talent-needy teams to be doing their due diligence. The entry draft is where many of the league's stars get their start.
This year's biggest star prospect appears to be American Jack Hughes, a player NHL Central Scouting called "not too dissimilar from Jack Eichel."
Where might Hughes and other top NHL prospects land this year? Let's dig into an updated Round 1 mock and some of the latest draft-related buzz.
2019 NHL Mock Draft, Round 1
1. Colorado Avalanche (via Ottawa): Jack Hughes, C, U.S. National U18 Team
2. Los Angeles Kings: Kaapo Kakko, LW, TPS Turku
3. New Jersey Devils: Vasili Podkolzin, RW, SKA
4. Buffalo Sabres: Bowen Byram, D, Vancouver Giants
5. Detroit Red Wings: Dylan Cozens, C/W, Lethbridge Hurricanes
6. New York Rangers: Ryan Suzuki, C, Barrie Colts
7. Edmonton Oilers: Victor Soderstrom, D, Brynas
8. Anaheim Ducks: Kirby Dach, C, Saskatoon Blades
9. Vancouver Canucks: Alex Turcotte, C, U.S. National U18 Team
10. Philadelphia Flyers: Raphael Lavoie, C, Halifax Mooseheads
11. Minnesota Wild: Cole Caufield, RW, U.S. National U18 Team
12. Chicago Blackhawks: Arthur Kaliyev, LW, Hamilton Bulldogs
13. Florida Panthers: Philip Broberg, D, AIK
14. Arizona Coyotes: Peyton Krebs, C, Kootenay Ice
15. Montreal Canadiens: Moritz Seider, D, Mannheim
16. Colorado Avalanche: Thomas Harley, D, Mississauga Steelheads
17. Dallas Stars: Matthew Boldy, LW, U.S. National U18 Team
18. Vegas Golden Knights: Spencer Knight, G, U.S. National U18 Team
19. Ottawa Senators (via Columbus): Alex Newhook, C, Victoria Grizzlies
20. Anaheim Ducks (via St. Louis): Samuel Poulin, RW, Sherbrooke
21. Carolina Hurricanes: Brett Leason, C, Prince Albert Raiders
22. New York Rangers (via Winnipeg): Cam York, D, U.S. National U18 Team
23. Pittsburgh Penguins: Philip Tomasino, C, Niagara IceDogs
24. Buffalo Sabres (via San Jose): Trevor Zegras, C/W, U.S. National U18 Team
26. Los Angeles Kings (via Toronto): Nolan Foote, LW, Kelowna Rockets
25. New York Islanders: Connor McMichael, C, London Knights
27. Boston Bruins: Matthew Robertson, D, Edmonton Oil Kings
28. Nashville Predators: Jakob Pelletier, C/W, Moncton Wildcats
29. Washington Capitals: Nils Hoglander, LW, Rogle
30. Calgary Flames: Nicholas Robertson, LW, Peterborough Petes
31. Tampa Bay Lightning: Alex Vlasic, D, U.S. National U18 Team
*Draft order courtesy of Tankathon.com, as of April 6.
Draft Lottery Days Away
The above draft order is purely speculative, as the selection of the actual draft order is upcoming. It's only days away, though, which means hockey fans will know where their favorite teams stand in the draft sooner than later.
The full first-round order will be determined on April 9 in the NHL draft lottery.
The lottery is a big deal this year, because there is plenty of talent at the top of the draft pool.
Hughes will likely be the grand prize for lottery teams, but prospects like winger Kaapo Kakko, defenseman Bowen Byram and winger Vasili Podkolzin will be prime consolation prizes for the teams who don't "win" the top spot in the draft.
Hughes Not Consensus No. 1
While Hughes is certainly the popular pick to go No. 1 overall, he might not be viewed as the top prospect by every single team. At the least, it appears Kakko is being viewed as a prospect on par with Hughes.
"The difference for us, right now, is razor thin," one NHL team head scout said, per TSN's Bob McKenzie. "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."
It might help to separate the two prospects if they competed head-to-head this spring. However, Hughes is headed to the U-18 tournament, while Kakko will compete with the Finland Men's team at the 2019 IIHF World.
If Kakko can dominate against senior men's competition, he may leapfrog Hughes as the top prospect by draft weekend.
Byram Staying Focused
While Byram may not be viewed in the same category as Hughes and Kakko—defensemen don't always get the attention—he is going to make some team picking at the top of the draft much, much better. That team is also going to make Byram a wealthy man.
The 17-year-old Byram, though, is blocking out the draft buzz in order to focus on the Western Hockey League playoffs.
"I hear a lot about what's going on with the draft lottery, with rankings. I'm not one to look at it. I hear about it," Byram said, per Steve Ewen of The Province. "I try to keep it all to the back of my mind. If I help this team win games, hopefully it will help myself out personally."
Teams looking to add a player focused on winning should be quite interested in Byram's approach.
"Everybody wants to have winners in their system," he added. "That's what I'm trying to create."
Byram may not have a realistic chance of being the first prospect off the board, but he should hear his name called shortly thereafter.