In pro basketball, Duke forward Zion Williamson was considered a slam dunk as the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, taken by the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday. A day later, the favorite in hockey’s 57th annual NHL Draft was also claimed, as the New Jersey Devils selected Jack Hughes of the U.S. National Team’s Development Program.
The choice was announced by legendary Devils goalie Martin Brodeur at Rogers Center in front of Hughes’ friends and family, incuding his older brother Quinn, a rookie who plays for the hometown Vancouver Canucks.
Both Williamson and Hughes are considered among the elite prospects to come from the amateur ranks in recent years.
Hughes, 18, is a 5-foot-10, 171-pound center who’s been NHL Central Scouting’s top-ranked North American Skater for quite some time, especially after a solid 112-point season for USA’s Under-18 team. Thus, he could immediately become the face of the Devils franchise.
Following the presentation of Highes on stage, the New York Rangers announced their pick at No. 2 overall by taking, as expected, Finnish winger Kaapo Kakko.
Hughes and Kakko were rated 1-2 for months. But the No. 3 pick by Chicago raised a few eyebrows.
Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman nabbed center Kirby Dachy of WHL Vancouver, Many anticipated the drafting of either Bowen Byrum, Alex Turcotte or Trevor Zegras as top candidates.
Byrum, the top defenseman prospect in the class, instead went to the Colorado Avalanche. Turcotte, a standout center committed to the University of Wisconsin, went to the Los Angeles Kings to round out the top five. Zegras went at No. 9 to the Anaheim Ducks.
The Detroit Red Wings continues a trend toward international talent by grabbing Moritz Seider of Adler Mannheim (Germany) with the sixth selection.
At No. 23 of the first round, the New York Islanders went with right-wing Simon Holmström of Sweden. He currently plays for HV71 of the Swedish Hockey League.