June is shaping up to be quite the month for the NHL. The St. Louis Blues just wrapped up a seven-game series over the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Final, and the entry draft is set to begin on June 21.
In the entry draft, teams will select from college, junior-league and international prospects. The hope is that the players they select will one day help their new teams raise the Stanley Cup, like how Jason Schwartz and Jordan Binnington just did for the Blues.
With the event quickly approaching, let's take a look at some of the top draft prospects and a first-round mock.
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): Kirby Dach, C, Saskatoon Blades (WHL)
5. Los Angeles Kings: Dylan Cozens, C/W, Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL)
6. Detroit Red Wings: Vasili Podkolzin, RW, SKA (MHL)
7. Buffalo Sabres: Victor Soderstrom, D, Brynas (SHL)
8. Edmonton Oilers: Ryan Suzuki, C, Barrie Colts (OHL)
9. Anaheim Ducks: Raphael Lavoie, C, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
10. Vancouver Canucks: Alex Turcotte, C, U.S. National U18 Team (NTDP)
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: Philip Broberg, D, AIK (Allsvenskan)
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: Spencer Knight, G, U.S. National U18 Team (NTDP)
25. Washington Capitals: Nolan Foote, LW, Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
26. Calgary Flames: Connor McMichael, C, London Knights (OHL)
27. Tampa Bay Lightning: Cam York, D, U.S. National U18 Team (NTDP)
28. Carolina Hurricanes: Alex Vlasic, 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): Samuel Fagemo, LW, Frolunda HC (SHL)
Jack Hughes, C, U.S. National Team
Center Jack Hughes is one of the two prospects most likely to land with the New Jersey Devils at No. 1 overall. He's a fast skater and a gifted scorer who racked up 40 goals and 76 assists during the 2017-18 season for the United States under-17 team.
Though there are concerns about Hughes' size (5'10", 166 lbs), his quickness, scoring prowess and ability to find the open man with the puck could allow him to make an early impact once he's added to the Devils' roster.
Hughes is also a competitor who doesn't want to be second, even in the upcoming draft.
"You don't dream of being two, three or four when you're a young kid," Hughes said, per Amanda Stein of NHL.com. "I want to be the first overall pick, and I feel like that would be a dream come true if that happened."
If your favorite team is looking to add immediate offense, Hughes is probably your guy.
Kaapo Kakko, LW, TPS Turku
If the Devils are hesitant to take a player of Hughes' relatively small size, then Finnish prospect Kaapo Kakko (6'2", 190 lbs) would seem to be a natural alternative.
A bigger and more physical player, Kakko can add the kind of offensive muscle that Hughes cannot. However, he's a skilled skater and puck-handler in his own right who is just as capable of taking over a game by himself.
"Kakko is probably one of two players in this draft class who could step onto an NHL roster today and make an immediate impact. He's that good, and we saw it at the 2019 IIHF World Championship when he scored six goals to lead Finland to a gold medal," Charlie Roumeliotis of NBC Sports Chicago wrote.
There has been a recent trend of Finnish-born prospects going high in the draft—one has gone in the top three in each of the past three drafts—and Kakko will almost certainly continue that trend.
Kirby Dach, C, Saskatoon Blades
There is a good chance that Hughes and Kakko are the top two players taken in this year's draft. Vancouver defenseman Bowen Byram is likely to be a top selection as well. Teams looking to add offensive firepower, though, may consider taking center/winger Kirby Dach over Byram.
Dach is another large offensive prospect (6'4", 197 lbs) who can add a physical presence much like Kakko.
"At 6'4", 197 pounds, Dach already has an NHL-type frame and will only get stronger as he fills it out," Roumeliotis wrote. "He also has a strong hockey IQ, which is always a positive when you can package that with your elite talent."
Dach is more than just a physical player, though. He's a natural skater who sees plays developing on the offensive end of the ice.
"He's a really skilled forward," Matthew Robertson, Dach's training partner and teammate on Team Canada said, per Jason Wolf of the Buffalo News. "He has some size. He uses that to his advantage, and he's really good at slowing the game down and making a good pass. And he's really smart. He has the potential to go a long way."