2019 NHL Draft: Roundup of Expert Mock Drafts, Rumors Ahead of Friday's Event

Kyle Newport@@KyleNewportFeatured ColumnistJune 21, 2019

KOSICE, SLOVAKIA - MAY 19: Jack Hughes #6 of USA during the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Slovakia group A game between Germany and United States at Steel Arena on May 19, 2019 in Kosice, Slovakia. (Photo by Lukasz Laskowski/PressFocus/MB Media/Getty Images)
PressFocus/MB Media/Getty Images

With the 2019 NHL draft set to get underway at Rogers Arena in Vancouver on Friday, the wait is almost over for Jack HughesKaapo Kakko and the rest of the draft class.

Hughes and Kakko, the consensus top two prospects, are poised to be the first two names called. But after that, the real drama will begin to unfold. 

Below is a preview of what to expect on draft night. 

Draft Order

Full draft order available on ESPN.com


Expert Mock Drafts

Adam Kimelman, NHL.com

1. New Jersey Devils: Jack Hughes, C, USA U18 (National Team Development Program)

2. New York Rangers: Kaapo Kakko, RW, Finland

3. Chicago Blackhawks: Alex Turcotte, C, USA U18 (NTDP)

4. Colorado Avalanche: Dylan Cozens, C Lethbridge (WHL)

5. Los Angeles Kings: Bowen Byram, D, Vancouver (WHL)

6. Detroit Red Wings: Trevor Zegras, C, USA U18 (NTDP)

7. Buffalo Sabres: Cole Caufield, RW, USA U18 (NTDP)

8. Edmonton Oilers: Matthew Boldy, LW, USA U18 (NTDP)

9. Anaheim Ducks: Phillip Broberg, D, AIK (SWE-2)

10. Vancouver Canucks: Vasily Podkolzin, RW, Neva St. Petersburg (RUS-2)

Mike G. Morreale, NHL.com

1. New Jersey Devils: Jack Hughes, C, USA U18 (NTDP)

2. New York Rangers: Kaapo Kakko, RW, Finland

3. Chicago Blackhawks: Alex Turcotte, C, USA

4. Colorado Avalanche: Kirby Dach, C, Saskatoon (WHL)

5. Los Angeles Kings: Bowen Byram, D, Vancouver (WHL)

6. Detroit Red Wings: Vasily Podkolzin, RW, Neva St. Petersburg (RUS-2)

7. Buffalo Sabres: Cole Caufield, RW, USA U18 (NTDP)

8. Edmonton Oilers: Trevor Zegras, C, USA U18 (NTDP)

9. Anaheim Ducks: Dylan Cozens, C Lethbridge (WHL)

10. Vancouver Canucks: Matthew Boldy, LW, USA U18 (NTDP)

Guillaume Lepage, NHL.com

1. New Jersey Devils: Jack Hughes, C, USA U18 (NTDP)

2. New York Rangers: Kaapo Kakko, RW, Finland

3. Chicago Blackhawks: Dylan Cozens, C Lethbridge (WHL)

4. Colorado Avalanche: Alex Turcotte, C, USA U18 (NTDP)

5. Los Angeles Kings: Bowen Byram, D, Vancouver (WHL)

6. Detroit Red Wings: Vasily Podkolzin, RW, Neva St. Petersburg (RUS-2)

7. Buffalo Sabres: Kirby Dach, C, Saskatoon (WHL)

8. Edmonton Oilers: Cole Caufield, RW, USA U18 (NTDP)

9. Anaheim Ducks: Trevor Zegras, C, USA U18 (NTDP)

10. Vancouver Canucks: Phillip Broberg, D, AIK (SWE-2)

Full mock drafts for each writer available on the NHL's official website

Top Prospects

Jack Hughes, C, USA U18 (NTDP)

New Jersey holds the No. 1 overall pick for the second time in three years, and with that, they are the lucky winners of the Jack Hughes sweepstakes.

The 18-year-old Hughes has put himself atop this draft class by lighting it up for the U.S. under-18 National Team, breaking records along the way. He recorded a single-season record of 112 points for the team in 2018-19, tallying 34 goals and 78 assists.

Devils general manager Ray Shero has made no secret about it that he is a fan of Hughes' game.

"He's an incredible skater," Shero said of Hughes in April, according to NorthJersey.com's Abbey Mastracco. "Both of the Hughes boys are are incredible talents but with Jack, it's the awareness on the ice, the instincts, the speed, the change of speeds."

Hughes, meanwhile, told Sportsnet in April that he would be "honored" to put on a Devils sweater:

It's only a matter of time before that becomes a reality.


Kaapo Kakko, RW, Finland

Not far behind Hughes, Kakko figures to be one of the best prospects of this year's class—and that's good news for the New York Rangers.

The 6'2", 194-pound Kakko is viewed as one of the top offensive talents in the draft, and his skills were on full display against top competition at the 2019 IIHF Men’s World Championship earlier this year:

At just 18 years old, there's plenty of upside to his game.

Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton has seen enough of both Hughes and Kakko at this point that he's satisfied with the opportunity at hand.

"It's a great feeling to know that we’re picking second. We know we have an opportunity to get a special player," Gorton said on Thursday, per the New York Post's Brett Cyrgalis. "Not losing much sleep on this one."

And with good reason.

Rumor Mill

This weekend is about the present as much as the future, so don't be surprised to see some veterans on the move during the draft.

According to Pierre LeBrun of TSN and The Athletic, the Florida Panthers are attempting to find a taker for goalie James Reimer, who has two years and $6 million remaining on his contract. The Athletic's George Richards reported earlier this month that the team would not look to buy Reimer out, given his $3.2 million cap hit.

Florida is viewed as a top landing spot for two-time Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky, who can become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Meanwhile, LeBrun also reported that "several teams" have already shown interest in former Anaheim Ducks star Corey Perry, who was bought out earlier this week. LeBrun noted both the Nashville Predators and the Chicago Blackhawks are among the teams pursuing the veteran.

Perry reportedly may be willing to sign a "cheap ... one-year, bonus-laden deal," per LeBrun.

Also according to LeBrun, the Columbus Blue Jackets remain in the mix for unrestricted free agent Matt Duchene. Acquired in a midseason trade with the Ottawa Senators, the 28-year-old center registered 12 points (four goals and eight assists) in 23 regular-season games while helping the Blue Jackets reach the postseason for the third consecutive season.

Duchene recorded 10 points, five goals and five assists, in 10 postseason games. His strong play helped Columbus win a playoff series for the first time in franchise history.

With Bobrovsky and forward Artemi Panarin expected to leave in free agency, Duchene could wind up being the Blue Jackets' top priority this offseason. LeBrun noted that Columbus isn't believed to have made an offer at this point, but Duchene is expected to consider remaining with the club.