British Columbia

What you need to know about the 2019 NHL Draft in Vancouver

Is there a consensus No. 1 pick? What will the Canucks do? Who is the top B.C. prospect?

Is there a consensus No. 1 pick? What will the Canucks do? Who is the top B.C. prospect?

Kirby Dach, of St. Albert, Alta., takes a selfie along with fellow NHL top prospects in downtown Vancouver. (Jonathon Hayward/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

It's a night where teenage prospects become instant millionaires and NHL front offices and diehard fans alike fantasize about a better future for their beloved team.

The first round of the 2019 NHL draft kicks off Friday at 5 p.m. PT at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, with subsequent rounds taking place on Saturday.

Barring trades, it's expected speedy and skilful U.S. centre Jack Hughes will be chosen first overall by the New Jersey Devils.

"Now that it's finally here, I'm going to enjoy it," Hughes said during a media availability Thursday.

NHL top prospect Jack Hughes, of Orlando, Fla., speaks to the media Thursday during a top prospects media availability in downtown Vancouver. (Jonathan Hayward/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Hughes is the younger brother of Vancouver Canucks defenceman Quinn Hughes. He arrives at the launch point of his pro career with a ton of hype after averaging 2.24 points per game with the U.S. National Team Development Program and holding down the No. 1 ranking for North American skaters on the NHL's central scouting list all season. 

Most consider Hughes the best player in the draft. But not far behind is Finnish forward Kaapo Kakko, who returns to the site of a previous triumph in Rogers Arena.

Kakko scored the golden goal in Finland's defeat of the U.S. in the championship game of the 2019 World Juniors.

"Good memories here," the Turku product said of Vancouver. "Nice city."

Cranbrook's Bowen Byram, who plays with the Vancouver Giants, is the top ranked Canadian defenceman in the 2019 draft. (Jonathan Hayward/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Defenceman Bowen Byram, who hails from Cranbrook, B.C., and stars with the WHL Vancouver Giants, could be next off the draft board and the first Canadian player selected, although there's no firm consensus among pundits.

The Chicago Blackhawks hold the third selection but there is speculation that Canucks general manager Jim Benning might consider trading up from the 10th pick in order to snag Byram and make a big splash in front of local fans.

"I'm trying not to worry about things," said Byram. "Now I just kind of get to sit back and relax and whatever happens, happens."

Edmonton owns the highest pick among Canadian teams at No. 8, followed by Vancouver (10th), Montreal (15th), Ottawa (19th), Winnipeg (20th) and Calgary (26th). Toronto isn't slated to step to the microphone until Saturday's second round at No. 53.

Round 1 order of selection

1. New Jersey

2. NY Rangers

3. Chicago

4. Colorado

5. Los Angeles

6. Detroit

7. Buffalo

8. Edmonton

9. Anaheim

10. Vancouver

With files from Canadian Press


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