Kakko thinks he can go No. 1 at 2019 NHL Draft ahead of Hughes


Jack Hughes of the United States, left, challenges Finland's Kaapo Kakko, right, during the Ice Hockey World Championships group A match between the Team USA and Finland at the Steel Arena in Kosice, Slovakia. (Petr David Josek/AP)

Kaapo Kakko isn’t lacking much in terms of high-end hockey skill. All you have to do is watch Team Finland play at the 2019 IIHF World Championship and you’ll quickly realize this.

The 18-year-old prospect doesn’t lack confidence either. In fact, Kakko believes he can leapfrog American Jack Hughes as the top draft-eligible prospect in hockey in time to be selected first overall at the 2019 NHL Draft.

Hughes and Kakko appear locks to go one-two on June 21 in Vancouver, and although Hughes has been ranked slightly ahead of Kakko for most of the 2018-19 season, Kakko’s stock has risen thanks to his performance at the worlds.

“I’ve played well,” Kakko told NHL.com correspondent Aaron Vickers via a translator. “I haven’t paid much attention to Jack Hughes and his game, but I’m confident I’ve been able to let everyone see my skills and the level of my game. It’s not going to be an easy choice for the teams.”

As of Friday, Kakko is tied for the tournament lead in goals with six and his seven points leads all Finnish players.

Several of his goals have been of the highlight-reel variety.

As are some of the things he does in practice.

The New Jersey Devils hold the top pick and think highly of both players, as do the New York Rangers who hold the second-overall selection.

“It’s great that people are interested in me and my game, of course,” Kakko added. “I’m glad I’ve been able to play well and execute. There are so many great NHL players in this tournament and it’s huge I’ve been able to play well against them. I’m hoping I could play in the NHL.”

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