The Rangers’ fates are tied directly to the neighboring Devils, and New Jersey GM Ray Shero is content playing coy.
When Shero steps to the podium to make the first pick in the 2019 NHL draft on June 21 in Vancouver — one selection ahead of Blueshirts GM Jeff Gorton — he will have his pick between American wunderkind Jack Hughes and Finnish scorer Kaapo Kakko. Though the majority of pundits have had Hughes tabbed as the top pick for the past few years, Shero won’t tip his hand just yet.
“He’s rated No. 1 in a lot of places,” he said on Sportsnet’s “31 Thoughts” podcast. “I’ve seen Jack play a lot. … No proclamations, but I think I said that the chance to draft someone like Jack Hughes is fantastic.
“Now we have that chance and we’ll see.”
It’s a similar strategy to the one Shero employed in 2017, when he had to choose between Nico Hischier and Nolan Patrick with the No. 1 pick, playing the Devils’ course of action close to the vest before making Hischier the first Swiss player to go in the top slot. It’s those shrewd decisions that helped Shero get a multi-year extension despite the team finishing with the third-worst record in the NHL a season after having made its first playoff appearance since 2012.
While Shero will keep pundits guessing as long as possible, the work for Gorton and Co. is at least lessened by knowing they will get one of the top-two players available in the highly skilled Hughes or the physical, two-way Kakko. Either one will accelerate the franchise’s rebuilding efforts.
“The opportunity to get a player of the caliber we’re going to get is a great opportunity for us to move this thing along,” Gorton told reporters after Tuesday’s draft lottery. “There’s a lot to go through and figure out who’s going to be No. 2 — or who’s even going to be No. 1 — we’re just getting that pick and we’re excited about that. I know from our scouts and having seen some of these players, it’s a great draft and it’s a great opportunity for us.”
Published at Thu, 11 Apr 2019 22:48:28 +0000