The Devils and Rangers technically hold the first two picks of the 2019 NHL Draft, which begins Friday.
But the draft realistically may begin with the Blackhawks at No. 3. The Devils’ and Rangers’ selections are all but predetermined; the Hawks’ choice could come from a sizable handful of possibilities.
The player chosen to headline the Hawks’ next generation will launch a domino effect of decisions that -reverberate throughout the first round.
With three days left until teams announce their selections, we predict all 31 picks of the first round (with significant changes since our last mock in April):
C Jack Hughes, U.S. National Team Development Program: The best prospect to enter the draft in the last three years, Hughes is a franchise-transforming player for the Devils.
RW Kaapo Kakko, TPS (Finland): Kakko dominated the World Championships this spring after playing well against professionals in the SHL. He’s a slam-dunk second overall choice.
C Alex Turcotte, USNTDP: It’s probably a 50-50 decision between Bowen Byram and Turcotte at this point. But forwards are more guaranteed to pan out, and Turcotte plays at the most valuable forward position. He also boasts a well-rounded skill set and insatiable tenacity that many liken to Jonathan Toews.
C Trevor Zegras, USNTDP: Zegras is a dazzling, creative playmaker who would fit perfectly in Colorado’s high-octane, offense-first system.
D Bowen Byram, Vancouver (Western Hockey League): Byram, the consensus top defenseman, falling to fifth would be good fortune for the starting-from-scratch Kings.
6. Red Wings
C Dylan Cozens, Lethbridge (WHL): Cozens has received much attention for his journey from the Yukon Territory, but he’s more than just a good story: he combines great skating and speed with old-school size and build.
RW Cole Caufield, USNTDP: Caufield, who was excited to measure in just above 5-7 at the combine, brings elite skill and shooting ability. Buffalo has an affinity for smaller forwards.
C Kirby Dach, Saskatoon (WHL): Edmonton is reportedly leaning towards a defenseman, but Dach dropping to eighth could be too juicy to pass up. He’s a 6-4 power forward who does everything well.
LW Matthew Boldy, USNTDP: The Ducks desperately need a playmaking winger like Boldy, who can both shoot and pass with the best of them.
RW Vasili Podkolzin, SKA (Russia): Podkolzin’s stock has plummeted in recent months. But the host Canucks, who are just starting their rebuild, can wait for the net-crashing Podkolzin to finish his two-year contract in Russia.
D Philip Broberg, AIK (Sweden): Overall, this is a forward-centric draft, so a number of defensemen might slide. Philadelphia is one of the exceptions, however, and Broberg combines defensive responsibility and high athleticism.
RW Arthur Kaliyev, Hamilton (Ontario Hockey League): Kaliyev is a dominant OHL superstar who tallied 51 points and 102 points in 67 games. But can he translate that production to the professional game?
G Spencer Knight, USNTDP: With Roberto Luongo now 40, James Reimer likely on his way out and no “A-grade” goalie prospect in the system, Florida is a perfect match for the top goaltending prospect.
C Peyton Krebs, Winnipeg (WHL): Thought mere weeks ago to be an outside candidate for even the Hawks’ pick, Krebs’ newly torn Achilles is enough to bump him far down this loaded draft class.
D Moritz Seider, Mannheim (Germany): It would be a splendid narrative if the Habs snagged Montreal native Raphael Lavoie, but narratives usually don’t work out. Seider could become only the third German ever to go top 15.
D Victor Soderstrom, Brynas (Sweden): The Avs might as well take a defenseman this time, and Soderstrom’s quick stick and impressive vision make him a good target.
17. Golden Knights
C Ryan Suzuki, Barrie (OHL): So maybe one narrative will work out — Ryan Suzuki’s brother Nick was the Knights’ 13th overall selection two years ago. The younger Suzuki is an elusive pass-first center.
RW Raphael Lavoie, Halifax (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League): Lavoie is one of the riskier players in the draft — he needs to improve his consistency and put more weight on his 6-4 frame.
C Philip Tomasino, Niagara (OHL): Rebuilding Ottawa needs more young centers in its system, particularly one who can complement Matthew Tkachuk. Tomasino is well-rounded yet not elite.
C Alex Newhook, Victoria (British Columbia Hockey League): Newhook is several years away from NHL competition, but he has terrific potential. After trading Jacob Trouba to the Rangers for this pick Monday, the Jets should go with the best player on the board.
D Thomas Harley, Mississauga (OHL): The Pens haven’t made a single first-round pick since 2014, and haven’t picked a defenseman who has since appeared in an NHL game since 2012. They’ll hope Harley can break both trends.
LW Nils Hoglander, Rogle (Sweden): Newhook going to Winnipeg begins a section of the draft, stretching through the remainder of the first round, with a dearth of centers. L.A. can’t afford to not get one forward out of their two picks.
D Cam York, USNTDP: The Islanders will happily lap up York, even though he projects as a second- rather than first-pair defenseman.
LW Patrik Puistola, Taapara (Finland): Puistola is pushing up draft boards swiftly. Nashville has exactly one good forward prospect right now; they need more.
RW Bobby Brink, Sioux City (U.S. Hockey League): At 5-8, 163 pounds, Brink is naturally the poor man’s Cole Caufield in this draft. But talent-wise, Brink is no poor man.
D Ville Heinola, Luukko (Finland): Calgary didn’t pick a single defenseman in all of last year’s draft, and only one in 2017. They’ll take several this time around.
LW Nicholas Robertson, Peterborough (OHL): Robertson is the kind of forward that always becomes a star in Tampa Bay. He’s a deke and snipe machine who is modeled after Brayden Point.
LW Jakob Pelletier, Moncton (QMJHL): Much like Robertson in Tampa Bay, Pelletier’s intelligence, work ethic and net drive meshes perfectly with Carolina’s franchise identity.
D Alex Vlasic, USNTDP: Anaheim makes it a pair of USNTDP products. Vlasic’s stock dropped some with the loaded American team this year, but this is a fair slot for him.
LW Brayden Tracey, Moose Jaw (WHL): The Bruins have used their first selection in each of the last four drafts on defensemen. That changes with Tracey.
D Lassi Thomson, Kelowna (WHL): Thomson is a pure offensive defenseman with a rocket shot. A power play quarterbacked by Thomson and Rasmus Dahlin would be terrifying.
Best of the Rest: RW Samuel Poulin, D Ryan Johnson, C Connor McMichael, D Tobias Bjornfot, C Jamieson Rees, LW Egor Afanasyev, LW Robert Mastrosimone, RW Nathan Legare