Tonight, a lot of eyes will be glues to the Rangers-Devils matchup, as the top 2 overall picks of this past NHL Draft will go head to head for the first of what should be many electrifying divisional matchups. Both rookies have been out to a slow start, with just one point between them in nine combined games, this highlight-reel goal by Kakko.
But going past the simple statistics, how has each rookie performed in their short career? Let’s start at the top with the reigning first overall pick, Jack Hughes.
Hughes has yet to put his name on the scoresheet, but he’s shown the qualities that have made him the top selection. His speed, puck-handling, and vision have been on display at even-strength while playing with Miles Wood and Jesper Bratt. Despite the lack of scoring, it would be a stretch to say that Hughes hasn’t played well. Hughes has also been a regular on the Devils’ 2nd powerplay unit and has already gotten 18 minutes of powerplay time.
On that unit, he’s been tasked to bring the puck up the ice and he’s shown a knack for finding his teammates in dangerous areas. He very nearly scored his first career goal seconds after the end of a powerplay against the Panthers but the puck bounced off two posts and refused to go in.
As he continues to adapt to the NHL and build chemistry with his teammates, we’re not worried that points will come sooner or later.
Kaapo Kakko’s Rangers have only played three games this season, so his 4:40 of powerplay time is too small of a sample size to really come to any conclusion. His even-strength body of work isn’t massive either, but 40 minutes of play is already a better indicator. Some of the arguments in favor of Kakko leading up to the draft were his bigger, more mature frame and his experience playing against older competition in Sweden. So far, he’s used his 6’3”, 199-pound frame well to keep the offense going with a strong forecheck. He also has shown the ability to get open in dangerous areas and be a good pass target for his linemates Ryan Strome and Chris Kreider.
So, Kakko vs Hughes, who’s your favorite?