NHL Draft 2019: The biggest winners and losers from a by-the-book first round in Vancouver
Not everyone can be a winner on draft night
The Devils, Kaapo Kakko went second to the Rangers and then things got a little more unpredictable from there. It wasn't quite a thrilling night in terms of activity on the floor but 31 players got to open the book on their pro careers, and that's always a fun thing to see.and things pretty much went by the book. Jack Hughes went first overall to the
Of course, it'll be some time before we find out which players can be classified as value picks and which we can label busts, but that won't stop the early analysis from rolling in. With Friday's opening round complete, let's try to make some early determinations on winners and losers.
Winner: New Jersey Devils
The biggest and most obvious winner of the night is the Devils, as they get the consensus top player in the draft in Jack Hughes. The 18-year-old American center is an electric talent up front and he comes from a strong hockey lineage, so there's plenty of faith in him as a "can't miss" prospect.
Hughes dominated in the U.S. National Development Program, becoming the all-time leading scorer and passing names like Clayton Keller, Phil Kessel, Patrick Kane and Auston Matthews. Not bad company to keep, or to beat.
He has top-notch speed and an explosive offensive game that could make him a franchise cornerstone for the Devils for years to come, but he'll need to work on putting on size and getting stronger in order to adjust to the NHL game. Still, he'll likely have a big impact for New Jersey right off the bat starting next season.
Loser: Cole Caufield
Caufield is one of the top goal scorers of this year's class -- if not the best in the class -- but he took the biggest plummet Friday night. The American winger nearly fell outside of the lottery and went to the Montreal Canadiens at No. 15, which makes the Habs a definite winner with a steal in that spot.
However, it's an unfortunate break for Caufield, who deserved better after scoring 72 goals in 64 games for the USNTDP last year. The most likely reason for his fall is his lack of size. At 5-feet-7, he's certainly undersized on the wing and maybe those concerns have merit.
But we've seen plenty of small guys slip in the draft only to go on to make fools out of the teams that passed on them. The most recent example is Alex DeBrincat, who fell to the second round in 2016 despite putting up huge numbers in juniors. All he did was go on to score 69 goals over his first two NHL seasons. (Nice.)
Caufield might be on the losing end now but he has a delicious opportunity to play with a chip on his shoulder and prove the doubters wrong, and do it in a huge hockey market. His numbers as an amateur suggest he has a great chance to do just that.
Winner: New York Rangers
Like the Devils, the Rangers secured an elite prospect with their top pick. New York becomes a huge winner with the addition of Kaapo Kakko, who will be an integral part of their rebuilding efforts moving forward.
The Finnish winger is a tremendous talent on the outside, not only in his ability to score goals but in his ability to see the ice and set up teammates as well. He has a strong all-around game and is a threat pretty from much anywhere on the ice. He also has good size and has been playing against adults overseas for the past year, so that will help him make a quicker transition to the NHL.
This draft is largely considered a two-player draft, with Hughes and Kakko being hailed as elite talents that rank significantly above everyone else. As such, the Rangers win big by securing the next potential face of their franchise at a timely juncture. That's not always a luxury that's afforded to the team in the No. 2 spot.
Loser: Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings delivered the biggest surprise of the first round when they selected Moritz Seider at No. 6. The German defenseman is seen as a good defensive prospect who has a reputation for being reliable and skilled in his own end, and he brings a lot of size at 6-4. But he's not believed to have a ton of offensive upside outside of being a very good passer and, as such, he was ranked outside of the top 10 by most scouts and prospect outlets.
The Wings obviously like Seider a lot and there's something to be said about going after the guy you want despite what the rankings say. But the Wings could have gotten him in a lower spot, and that's something they apparently recognized.
Unfortunately, they weren't able to trade down and they just had to swallow some value by taking a projected reach at No. 6. It looks like a loss right now, but be careful when it comes to doubting Steve Yzerman, who is running his first draft since leaving the Lightning to return to Detroit as general manager.
Winner: Colorado Avalanche
Because the Chicago Blackhawks decided to go for a center (Kirby Dach) at No. 3, the Colorado Avalanche lucked into having the best defensive prospect in the draft fall into their lap at No. 4.
Bowen Byram is widely considered to be the best blue line prospect of the class and a potential first-pairing defenseman down the line. The Canadian prospect should be a high-tier possession player, as he's a great skater with the ability to handle and move the puck very well, and is also strong facilitator and has enough offensive ability to finish. He's the type of defenseman that the NHL has seemed to cater more heavily to over the past few years.
He should be able to contribute right away for the Avs, who are steadily trending upward in the Western Conference and are approaching "scary" territory with all the young talent they have on that roster. Byram will join a blue line that already includes Cale Makar and Sam Girard, which is one heck of a youth movement on the back end. The only loser here could be Tyson Barrie, who might now be expendable with the addition of Byram.
Loser: Anyone who wanted chaos
There were plenty of rumors swirling around the league before Friday's draft. Several general managers talked about an "unprecedented" level of communication during the week, leading us to believe that the first round of the draft could be chaotic and feature a bunch of moving parts.
Yeah, that was not the case.
There was just one single trade made during Round 1, and it was a pick-for-pick swap. (By the way, the Flyers did pretty well to move down from 11 to 14 while picking up a second-rounder and still snagging a really solid prospect in Cam York.) That's right ... a total of zero players were moved during the first round of the draft.
Of course, it probably didn't help that next season's final cap number hasn't been announced yet. Somehow.
But anyone who was hoping for a wild first round was in for a sore disappointment and an emphatic reminder that talk is cheap.
Winner: USA Hockey
It was an incredible night for USA Hockey, specifically the United States National Team Development program. Not only did Jack Hughes become the eighth American player to get picked first overall, but the USNTDP squad had a record eight players taken in the first round, with seven of them coming in the top 15.
Here's a rundown of the American prospects who were selected Friday:
- No. 1: C Jack Hughes (New Jersey Devils)
- No. 5: C Alex Turcotte (Los Angeles Kings)
- No. 9: F Trevor Zegras (Anaheim Ducks)
- No. 12: LW Matthew Boldy (Minnesota Wild)
- No. 13: G Spencer Knight (Florida Panthers)
- No. 14: D Cam York (Philadelphia Flyers)
- No. 15: RW Cole Caufield (Montreal Canadiens)
- No. 30: C John Beecher (Boston Bruins)
It was just an incredible showcase of talent from the budding American program.
There was only one Russian taken in the first round Friday -- Vasili Podkolzin, who went 10th overall to the Vancouver Canucks. Podkolzin is a really strong prospect who might have potentially been able to have an immediate impact at the NHL level, but he's committed to finishing out the final two years of his current KHL contract. That means that we won't see any Russian players coming from this first round for at least a few years, which is pretty wild.
CBS Sports HQ Daily Newsletter
Get the best highlights and stories - yeah, just the good stuff handpicked by our team to start your day.
Thanks for signing up!
Keep an eye on your inbox for the latest sports news.
There was an error processing your subscription.
Nylander will become the second players to wear No. 88 in Maple Leafs history
Cullen, 42, was the NHL's oldest active player
The North Dakota star spent 12 years in the NHL and also represented Canada in the Olympic...
Buffalo nets a top-four blue-liner, while Chicago lands a former first-round forward
Sonny Milano and A.J. Greer were arrested for assault at a New York City apartment
Who struck it big and who fell flat on the opening day of free agency?