Who is #1: Hughes or Kakko The Debate Rages On
It’s been just over two months since the NHL Draft Lottery. It’s been just over two months since NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daily revealed the results of said lottery to the hockey and sporting world. It’s been just over two months since the Garden Faithful found out their beloved hockey team was in possession of the second overall pick guaranteeing that either Jack Hughes or Kaapo Kakko will be donning the blue sweater with the diagonal Ranger name across the torso come training camp in September.
The debate as to which of these young guns will have the more successful NHL career has gotten to be redundant at this point. If you were an arm-chair NHL general manager in 2006 and you had to choose, hypothetically of course since they were drafted in different years, between Alex Ovechkin and Sydney Crosby, which future Hall of Famer would you select? That debate is, in my view, tantamount to the current Hughes/Kakko argument.
The New Jersey Devils have the first selection in next week’s draft in Vancouver. The hockey team from the Garden State will decide which of these upper-echelon talents will play their home games on the wrong side of the Hudson River and, therefore, which will play their home games on the corner of 7th Avenue and 33rd Street,
Kakko’s impressive showing in the recently completed IIHF World Championships has, seemingly, closed the already narrow gap between these two unwitting rivals. Jack Hughes is still expected to be the name called by Devils general manager Ray Shero when he steps up to the microphone on Commissioner Bettman’s podium leaving his Ranger counterpart, Jeff Gorton, with the opportunity to select the Finnish man-child.
It will be human nature to wonder if, whomever gets passed over by New Jersey and ends up being drafted at number two, will that player start his NHL career with a chip on his shoulder? Will that player hold a grudge against the organization that felt the “other guy” was more deserving of being selected as the number one overall player in the draft?
Both Hughes and Kakko feel they are worthy of being drafted first and rightfully so. Both are incredible talents. Both have all of the tools that make scouts drool and coaches grin with glee. Both have the supreme ability to make spectators move to the edge of the seats with anticipation. Both will make an instant impact in their rookie season. However, only one will have the singular distinction of being named the first overall pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.
The Rangers will, of course, draft the player who gets passed over by the Devils. Moving forward, the dynamic between the proverbial “silver medalist” and the team from Jersey will be quite provocative. After all, if you got passed over for a job promotion for someone whom you felt was inferior, wouldn’t you hold a degree of animosity towards the person(s) in charge of the decision making process?
The Rangers and the Ranger fans would absolutely love to see the player they end up with make a career out of making the Devils pay for their draft day decision. When the NY Jets decided that Ken O’Brien was more deserving than Dan Marino in the 1983 NFL draft, Marino made it his mission to make Gang Green pay for selecting the immensely inferior O’Brien and, boy, did #13 enjoy decimating the defenses of the football team clad in green and white.
On Friday June 21st, at approximately 8:20PM Eastern Standard time, Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko will find out which city they will begin their NHL careers. Rangerstown will assuredly be euphoric and delirious as they soak up as much merchandise as they can pertaining to the newly minted draftee. The Rangers/Devils rivalry will exist simultaneously to the Hughes/Kakko rivalry as Ranger fans hope that their neophyte does to the New Jersey Devils what Dan Marino did to the New York Jets,