What Does Hughes Going Second Overall Mean For The Rangers?
With a hat trick in the second game of the World Championships, projected second overall pick Kaapo Kakko now has five goals in three games for Finland. When the Rangers moved up to second overall via the draft lottery a few weeks ago, many expected that American center Jack Hughes would be the first overall pick to the rivals across the Hudson, and the Rangers would end up with the Finnish winger, Kakko.
Hughes has been the consensus number one overall projected pick for nearly three years now, even though some do think Kakko is deserving of that honor. I am still 95% sure that Hughes goes first overall for many reasons. First of all, he plays a much more coveted position being a center, as opposed to Kakko who is a true winger. Second, Hughes has been a phenom since he was 10 years old, and GMs do not pass on those types of talents. Third, Devils head coach John Hynes is serving as an assistant for Team USA at the World Championships. Finally, the Devils have had a family connection with the Hughes’s for quite some time. But what does it mean for the Rangers if Kakko does go first overall, leaving them with the versatile Hughes?
Before we discuss how Hughes would impact this Rangers club, fans need to hold onto their hats if this situation does happen. Many Rangers fans have fallen in love with Kakko since the lottery – because he is very likely the pick – and now want nothing to do with Hughes. It is also Kakko’s dominance at the World Championships that have Rangers fans “upset” at the thought of the Devils taking him, and us getting Hughes. First of all to put it simply, if the Devils do take Kakko, the Rangers would get the best prospect in the draft with the second overall pick…not a bad bargain. Yes, Kakko is probably going to be more ready for the NHL come October, primarily due to his size and having played in the pro league in Finland. However, Hughes has the higher ceiling; not to mention they will both be in the starting lineups on opening night for whichever team drafts them. So, in the unlikely scenario that Kakko goes first and the Rangers wind up with Hughes, how would it impact the Rangers?
If the Rangers were to get Hughes, I see him slotting into the 2C role behind Mika Zibanejad. That is a fantastic one-two punch of centers, and look how having a monster pair at center has benefitted the Penguins over the past fifteen or so years. Not to mention the price of Zibanejad and Hughes would total $6.275 million, an absolute steal for your top two centers. More importantly, Hughes would give the Rangers a lot more flexibility throughout their lineup. Unlike Hughes, Rangers forwards Filip Chytil and Lias Andersson have played a good amount of wing in their lifetime. Chytil spent most of his 19-year-old rookie year on the wing where he was very successful. If the pick were to be Hughes, head coach David Quinn would be able to move his two blue-chip second year players in Chytil and Andersson anywhere he wants in the lineup. He would be able to put Chytil in the top-six on the wing, move him down to 3C pushing Howden to 4C, or have him play third line wing. Andersson would also have similar flexibility – Lias can play in the middle-six on the wing, play 3C pushing Howden to 4C, and even play 4C. Having centers who can also play wing like Chytil and Andersson is extremely beneficial for a team bringing in a bonafide top-six center like Hughes.
Overall, the Rangers cannot lose where they pick in the draft. They are either getting a center-ice phenom in Jack Hughes, or an elite playmaking/goal-scoring winger in Kaapo Kakko. I personally do not think that this tournament changes anything, and as mentioned before, I am 95% certain the Devils take Hughes, leaving the Rangers with Kakko. However, if the unlikely scenario of Kakko going first overall does happen, don’t be upset Rangers fans. Either way, the Blueshirts are getting a franchise altering player.