The St. Louis Blues have been celebrating the first Stanley Cup in team history since Wednesday, and when the season came to an end with their Game 7 victory at TD Garden over the Boston Bruins, the 2019-20 season came into focus.
The next event on the NHL calendar is the draft, which will commence Friday night in Vancouver.
American center Jack Hughes is the projected No. 1 pick, and he has held that position for nearly a full year. However, while Hughes appeared to be miles ahead for much of the season, Finnish forward Kaapo Kakko narrowed the gap over the past two or three months.
The likelihood is that Hughes will remain the top pick go to the New Jersey Devils, while the New York Rangers will select the talented Kakko at No. 2.
Here's how the first round of the draft could play out, as well as a further look at the three most effective players.
2019 NHL Mock Draft, 1st Round
1. New Jersey Devils: Jack Hughes, C, U.S. National U18 Team (NTDP)
2. New York Rangers: Kaapo Kakko, LW, TPS Turku (Liiga)
3. Chicago Blackhawks: Bowen Byram, D, Vancouver Giants (WHL)
4. Colorado Avalanche (via Ottawa Senators): Vasili Podkolzin, RW, SKA (MHL)
5. Los Angeles Kings: Dylan Cozens, C/W, Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL)
6. Detroit Red Wings: Kirby Dach, C, Saskatoon Blades (WHL)
7. Buffalo Sabres: Victor Soderstrom, D, Brynas (SHL)
8. Edmonton Oilers: Ryan Suzuki, C, Barrie Colts (OHL)
9. Anaheim Ducks: Alex Turcotte, C, U.S. National U18 Team (NTDP)
10. Vancouver Canucks: Raphael Lavoie, C, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
11. Philadelphia Flyers: Arthur Kaliyev, LW, Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL)
12. Minnesota Wild: Cole Caufield, RW, U.S. National U18 Team (NTDP)
13. Florida Panthers: Trevor Zegras, C/W, U.S. National U18 Team (NTDP)
14. Arizona Coyotes: Peyton Krebs, C, Kootenay Ice (WHL)
15. Montreal Canadiens: Matthew Boldy, LW, U.S. National U18 Team (NTDP)
16. Colorado Avalanche: Moritz Seider, D, Mannheim (DEL)
17. Vegas Golden Knights: Thomas Harley, D, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
18. Dallas Stars: Spencer Knight, G, U.S. National U18 Team (NTDP)
19. Ottawa Senators (via Columbus Blue Jackets): Alex Newhook, C, Victoria Grizzlies (BCHL)
20. New York Rangers (via Winnipeg Jets): Samuel Poulin, RW, Sherbrooke Phoenix (QMJHL)
21. Pittsburgh Penguins: Philip Tomasino, C, Niagara IceDogs (OHL)
22. Los Angeles Kings (via Toronto Maple Leafs): Nils Hoglander, LW, Rogle (SHL)
23. New York Islanders: Brett Leason, C, Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)
24. Nashville Predators: Philip Broberg, D, AIK (Allsvenskan)
25. Washington Capitals: Nolan Foote, LW, Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
26. Calgary Flames: Connor McMichael, C, London Knights (OHL)
27. Tampa Bay Lightning: Alex Vlasic, D, U.S. National U18 Team (NTDP)
28. Carolina Hurricanes: Cam York, D, U.S. National U18 Team (NTDP)
29. Anaheim Ducks (via San Jose Sharks): Matthew Robertson, D, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
30. Boston Bruins: Nicholas Robertson, LW, Peterborough Petes (OHL)
31. Buffalo Sabres (from St. Louis Blues): Anttoni Honka, D, JYP (Liiga)
Draft order based on NHL.com, as of June 14.
Hughes has dynamic speed and moves, and he has the potential to become a player who can take over a game at any time and make impact plays on a regular basis.
He does not look like a he can run with the game's giants because he is on the small side at 5'10" and 166 pounds. On the face of it, Hughes looks like he could be overpowered.
However, he is an instinctive player who has the kind of vision to let him know where the hit is coming from and when it will arrive. He can escape most hits, hold on to the puck and make plays for himself and his teammates.
Hughes is a master of the no-look pass, and he will also fire off a wrist shot when he gets inside inside the blue line.
Dan Marr of NHL Central Scouting believes Hughes will be an elite player.
"Jack is an elite skater who plays the game at top speed both with and without the puck, he sees the ice tremendously well and finds open space to create scoring chances," Marr said (h/t My NHL Draft). "He has a complete package of skills that suggest he will be a franchise NHL player and game-changer."
The right wing from Finland has at least one advantage over Hughes in that he is 6'2" and 190 pounds.
He also shares many of the same attributes as Hughes; he is an excellent skater who can elude others and make sharp plays in the offensive zone.
Kakko is a physical player who is not afraid to deliver the hit first and then make the play after that. He can create space for himself with his athleticism and his physical play, and that should allow him to become an impact player early in his career.
In addition to playing wing, Kakko handles the puck so well that he could also play center at some point in his his career.
"Multi-tooled winger with size and coordination who incorporates his impressive puck skills with a desirable physical package that consistently exhausts opponents," Steve Kournianos of The Draft Analyst said (h/t Andrew Forbes of The Hockey Writers). "Blessed with incredibly soft hands and tight-quarter quickness, Kakko is a reliable stickhandler who uses timing plays to either get open or create space for his linemates."
Bowen Byram is the top defenseman in the draft, and there is an excellent chance he could go with the No. 3 pick to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Byram is a physical hitter at 6'0" and 193 pounds, and he also has excellent offensive skills to go along with his defensive play. Byram scored 26 goals and 45 assists in junior hockey for the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League last season, and he has the kind of speed and mobility that will make him a dangerous player.
He can create a breakout or join the rush, and he does it with confidence. He also has the drive and know-how to run the power play like a veteran.
"Bowen is a number-one defenseman who controls play in all areas," TSN analyst Craig Button said (h/t Ted Kulfan of the Detroit News). "He's strong defensively and an excellent skater who excels in transition. He has the vision, poise and puck skills to be a standout offensive player. He and [Adam] Boqvist could be a dynamic pair, perhaps in a similar light to [Chicago defensemen Duncan] Keith and [Brent] Seabrook."