Eight days ago, the St. Louis Blues won their first Stanley Cup in franchise history. Next year, the NHL's 30 other teams will try to take it away from them.
However, there's plenty of time over the next few months for those franchises, as well as the Blues, to improve their squads before the 2019-20 season gets underway. That includes the 2019 NHL Draft, which takes place Friday and Saturday at Rogers Arena in Vancouver.
The first round will take place Friday (8 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network), followed by the remaining six rounds on Saturday (1 p.m. ET, NHL Network).
The New Jersey Devils received the No. 1 pick in the draft lottery after entering with the third-best odds of securing the top pick. Now, they'll have to decide between the clear top two players in this year's class—Jack Hughes or Kaapo Kakko.
Here's a look at how Friday's first round could unfold, followed by a breakdown of the projected top three picks in this year's draft.
NHL First-Round Mock Draft
1. New Jersey Devils: C Jack Hughes, USA Hockey NTDP
2. New York Rangers: RW Kaapo Kakko, TPS Turku (SM-liiga)
3. Chicago Blackhawks: C Alex Turcotte, USA Hockey NTDP
4. Colorado Avalanche (from Ottawa): C Trevor Zegras, USA Hockey NTDP
5. Los Angeles Kings: D Bowen Byram, Vancouver (WHL)
6. Detroit Red Wings: C/W Dylan Cozens, Lethbridge (WHL)
7. Buffalo Sabres: RW Vasili Podkolzin, SKA Neva (VHL)
8. Edmonton Oilers: C Kirby Dach, Saskatoon (WHL)
9. Anaheim Ducks: RW Cole Caufield, USA Hockey NTDP
10. Vancouver Canucks: C Alex Newhook, Victoria (BCHL)
11. Philadelphia Flyers: LW Matthew Boldy, USA Hockey NTDP
12. Minnesota Wild: G Spencer Knight, USA Hockey NTDP
13. Florida Panthers: D Thomas Harley, Mississauga (OHL)
14. Arizona Coyotes: D Philip Broberg, AIK (Allsvenskan)
15. Montreal Canadiens: D Cam York, USA Hockey NTDP
16. Colorado Avalanche: D Moritz Seider, Adler Mannheim (DEL)
17. Vegas Golden Knights: C Peyton Krebs, Kootenay (WHL)
18. Dallas Stars: C Ryan Suzuki, Barrie (OHL)
19. Ottawa Senators (from Columbus): RW Raphael Lavoie, Halifax (QMJHL)
20. Winnipeg Jets (from Rangers): C Philip Tomasino, Niagara (OHL)
21. Pittsburgh Penguins: D Victor Soderstrom, Brynas IF (SHL)
22. Los Angeles Kings (from Toronto): LW Nils Hoglander, Rogle BK (SHL)
23. New York Islanders: D Ville Heinola, Lukko (SM-liiga)
24. Nashville Predators: RW Arthur Kaliyev, Hamilton (OHL)
25. Washington Capitals: LW Pavel Dorofeyev, Stalnye (MHL)
26. Calgary Flames: LW Samuel Poulin, Sherbrooke (QMJHL)
27. Tampa Bay Lightning: C John Beecher, USA Hockey NTDP
28. Carolina Hurricanes: RW Brett Leason, Prince Albert (WHL)
29. Anaheim Ducks (from Buffalo via San Jose): LW Robert Mastrosimone, Chicago (USHL)
30. Boston Bruins: C Connor McMichael, London (OHL)
31. Buffalo Sabres (from St. Louis): D Alex Vlasic, USA Hockey NTDP
Top 3 Picks Breakdown
C Jack Hughes, USA Hockey NTDP
While Hughes and Kakko are both great players, the Devils will go with Hughes, who totaled 112 points (34 goals, 78 assists) in 50 games as a captain for the USA National under-18 team this past season.
Hughes is ready to become a franchise player for New Jersey, thanks to his skill and maturity. He's also a dynamic player with great speed and playmaking ability.
"There is so much confidence," USA Hockey NTDP coach John Wroblewski said, according to the New York Post's Brett Cyrgalis. "There's not a room that he steps into where he isn't comfortable."
At 18 years old, Hughes could become a star and a face of the Devils' franchise for years to come.
RW Kaapo Kakko, TPS Turku (SM-liiga)
Although the Rangers won't get Hughes, they'll come away with a future star of their own in Kakko, who tallied 38 points (22 goals, 16 assists) in 45 games in Finland this past season. According to USA Today's Kevin Allen, Kakko broke the record for the most goals by an NHL draft-eligible player in the Finnish League.
Kakko also demonstrated a great ability to handle the puck, so he should become a reliable scoring option for the Rangers for years to come.
"He's best when the pressure is at the highest," TPS Turku assistant coach Sami Salo told Cyrgalis. "That's what we found out. We played against lower-end teams, and those are the times when he would struggle because there was no real tension or pressure. And then he would thrive in the games against the top teams and playoffs. I don't see that changing under the NHL style."
C Alex Turcotte, USA Hockey NTDP
This year's class features several top prospects from the USA Hockey National Team Development Program, and Turcotte will be the second one selected in the top three picks when he goes to the Chicago Blackhawks at No. 3.
There are several players Chicago will consider selecting here, but Turcotte will be the best available talent on the board so the Blackhawks will go with him.
If the Blackhawks decide they'd rather take a defender here, expect them to go with Bowen Byram. But it's more likely Turcotte will be the pick.