The New Jersey Devils walk to the podium first to kick off the 2019 NHL draft at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, Canada.
Like previous years, the events at the top of the draft aren't hard to figure out thanks to the presence of must-have prospects like Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko.
But from there, the NHL draft should match most other sports drafts in entertainment value. The lottery set through pick No. 15 offer teams a serious chance at improvement. Several teams such as the Los Angeles Kings and Buffalo Sabres (who picked Rasmus Dahlin first overall last year) clutch multiple opening-round picks.
Unpredictably, trade intrigue and more are sure to define the event, which starts at 8 p.m. ET before continuing with a flurry of Rounds 2-7 on Saturday at 1 p.m. ET.
2019 NHL Draft Round 1 Results
1. New Jersey Devils: Jack Hughes, C, USA U-18
2. New York Rangers: Kaapo Kakko, R, TPS
3. Chicago Blackhawks: Kirby Dach, C, Saskatoon
4. Colorado Avalanche (from Senators): Bowen Byram, D, Vancouver
5. Los Angeles Kings: Alex Turcotte, C, USA U-18
6. Detroit Red Wings: Moritz Seider, D, Mannheim
7. Buffalo Sabres: Dylan Cozens, C, Lethbridge
8. Edmonton Oilers: Philip Broberg, D, AIK
9. Anaheim Ducks: Trevor Zegras, C, USA U-18
10. Vancouver Canucks: Vasily Podkolzin, R, Neva St. Petersburg
11. Arizona Coyotes (from Flyers): Victor Soderstrom, D, Brynas
12. Minnesota Wild: Matthew Boldy, L, USA U-18
13. Florida Panthers: Spencer Knight, G, USA U-18
14. Philadelphia Flyers (From Coyotes): Cameron York, D, USA U-18
15. Montreal Canadiens: Cole Caufield, R, USA U-18
16. Colorado Avalanche: Alex Newhook, C, Victoria
17. Vegas Golden Knights: Peyton Krebs, C, Kootenay
18. Dallas Stars: Thomas Harley, D, Mississauga
19. Ottawa Senators (from Blue Jackets): Lassi Thomson, D, Kelowna
20. Winnipeg Jets (from Rangers): Ville Heinola, D, Lukko
21. Pittsburgh Penguins: Samuel Poulin, R, Sherbrooke
22. Los Angeles Kings (from Maple Leafs): Tobias Bjornfot, D, Djurgarden Jr.
23. New York Islanders: Simon Holmstrom, R, HV 71 Jr.
24. Nashville Predators: Philip Tomasino, C, Niagara
25. Washington Capitals: Connor McMichael, C, London
26. Calgary Flames: Jakob Pelletier, L, Moncton
27. Tampa Bay Lightning: Nolan Foote, L, Kelowna
28. Carolina Hurricanes: Ryan Suzuki, C, Barrie
29. Anaheim Ducks (from Sharks via Sabres): Brayden Tracey, L, Moose Jaw
30. Boston Bruins: John Beecher, C, USA U-18
31. Buffalo Sabres (from Blues): Ryan Johnson, D, Sioux Falls
Entering the draft, it would be an upset to see anyone besides Hughes come off the board first to the Devils.
Hughes, standing at 5'10" and 171 pounds, is as explosive as it gets as an entry player who figures to make the jump right to the NHL. He holds National Team Development Program records with 154 assists and 228 points over just two seasons.
Some of the film and analysis says it all:
Hughes is a nice embodiment of where hockey heads. Similar to the NFL right now, size isn't the only thing teams are looking for when it comes time to draft prospects.
John Wroblewski, a coach at the U.S. Developmental Program, told Brett Cyrgalis of the New York Post the following: "I'm telling you this: He's going to be a superstar as a center-ice man in that league. It's going to break a mold, and there is going to be a generation of kids that want to be Jack Hughes."
The Hughes hype has been rising without a peak for a long time now, so it seems assured he's heading to a New Jersey team that hardly broke the 30-win barrier a season ago.
In past years, Kakko might come off the board first simply because he's safer.
Kakko is a bigger prospect at 6'2" and 194 pounds who presents a problem for defenders thanks to his playmaking ability with his left hand. He's shown at world championships he can already compete with NHL players. While he isn't going to zip around the ice as much as Hughes, he's a rock-solid prospect who should arrive and produce for a long time.
This isn't simple pre-draft talk either. As this video breakdown points out, he even scored a game-winning goal in the gold medal game this year:
NHL Central Scouting's Dan Marr explained what separates Kakko from Hughes, per NHL.com's Mike G. Morreale: "Kakko is the bigger power forward who plays effectively either at center or his off wing (as a left-handed right wing) where he showcases his strong playmaking ability. His hockey sense and skills, when combined with his size and strength, allow him to be an impact player in all situations."
While there is always the potential for a surprise, the New York Rangers can't complain too much about picking second this year given the presence of a prospect like Kakko.
If that's how it unfolds, Kakko arrives to help a team that has missed the playoffs two years in a row.
In hindsight, the draft's third pick end up being really predictable, too.
Alex Turcotte, after all, grew up in Chicago and now the 5'11", 186-pound center has a chance of being drafted by his Chicago Blackhawks.
And few could argue against the value there given Turcotte's resume. As NHL.com pointed out, his father, Alfie, was a first-round pick back in 1983 and appeared in 112 NHL games. That has carried over to Alex, a superb two-way prospect with elite scoring potential who scored 27 goals and 35 assists over 37 games in 2019-19 with NTDP.
The sheer numbers reinforce a simple quote provided by experts:
The Chicago theme has understandably been a big part of the pre-draft narrative for Alex.
"Obviously that was my childhood team growing up, it would obviously be pretty cool to go with Blackhawks," Turcotte said, according to The Athletic's Scott Powers. "But at the same time, it'd be cool to go anywhere. If they choose not to draft me, I'm still going to be happy wherever go."
Turcotte could end up landing anywhere, of course, but he'd go a long way in helping the Blackhawks work toward getting back to the playoffs for the first time since 2016-17.