TSN Hockey Insiders Darren Dreger, Pierre LeBrun and Bob McKenzie joined host James Duthie to discuss how Kaapo Kakko has closed the gap on Jack Hughes to go first overall in the 2019 NHL Draft, whether Jack Hughes could play with his brother Quinn at the World Hockey Championship and more.
Is Hughes still the consensus at No. 1?
With the NHL's April 9 draft lottery rapidly coming up, is do scouts around the league still have American Jack Hughes as the consensus No. 1 overall pick?
McKenzie: He is, and, in fact, nothing at face value has changed on this regard since TSN's mid-season rankings in late January. Hughes is still No. 1, with 10 out of 10 scouts saying he's still No. 1. But when is unanimous misleading? Well, it is this time because the gap has closed considerably between the No. 1 prospect Hughes, who plays for the USA under-18 program, and the No. 2 player Kaapo Kakko, who plays wing in Finland and has set a record for the most goals in a season by an under-18 player. So the gap has closed considerably, they say it's razor thin, although, there are still scouts that believe that Hughes is the clear No. 1 choice. As tight as the race is, what's going to be interesting to watch is the international hockey calendar. Hughes is scheduled to play for Team USA at the under-18s in April. Kakko would normally play in this tournament as well, but he's been invited to the senior men's world championships for Finland in May. The team that ultimately winds up with the first pick is going to have to attend both of these tournaments in order to make their final decision between Hughes and Kakko.
Dreger: There's a chance that Hughes and Kakko could meet one another at the world championships in Slovakia. Like USA Hockey did last year in inviting Hughes' older brother, Quinn, to participate in the tournament, where he fared very well, the organization is considering bringing the younger Hughes to Slovakia as well. An official decision on Jack hasn't yet been made, but I'm told that Quinn committed to play for Team USA in Slovakia on Wednesday. It's likely that Jack will be part of the team as well.
Flyers' Lombardi wants to say put
Multiple teams, including the Ottawa Senators, have contacted front office executive Dean Lombardi in hopes of prying him away from the Philadelphia Flyers, but Lombardi says he's staying put.
LeBrun: He turned Ottawa down, even as far as having a conversation. The Senators are not the only team Lombardi has turned down. My understanding is that, since Lombardi was fired as general manager of the Los Angeles Kings two years ago, four different NHL teams have tried to entice him into a conversation, and his response has been pretty consistent: 'No. I'm seeing this through with the Flyers." Lombardi is the senior advisor to Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher. What's changed, of course, is the GM. Former Flyers GM Ron Hextall is the one who brought Lombardi to Philadelphia. With Fletcher since replacing Hextall, what does that mean for Lombardi? Well, in fact, Lombardi and Fletcher have really hit it off, to the point where I'm told in the next couple of weeks that the two will sit down in the next couple of weeks and talk about a new contract. Lombardi wants to stay put and help the Flyers get over the proverbial hump.
Jackets' Davidson could potentially replace Sather with the Rangers
With the New York Rangers officially confirming on Thursday that president Glen Sather will be transitioning out of his president's role at season's end, the team may very well turn to an obvious candidate in Columbus Blue Jackets president John Davidson to fill Sather's job.
McKenzie: The most obvious candidate for the Rangers to replace Sather with is Davidson. The current Blue Jackets president's only focus right now is trying to get his team into the playoffs, but it's pretty obvious that his longstanding connection with Madison Square Garden as a broadcaster and understanding how that side of the business works, but also his experience as president of the St. Louis Blues in addition to his experience with the Blue Jackets, would make him the most obvious, and maybe even the leading candidate. Steve Yzerman is another imminently qualified individual, but a lot of people think he's more likely to end up with the Detroit Red Wings, if Yzerman is going to do something beyond his advisory role with the Tampa Bay Lightning that expires on July 1.
New Oilers GM to manage coach search
With the Edmonton Oilers still without a general manager, it's unlikely that Ken Hitchcock will stay on as the team's head coach once the regular season concludes.
Dreger: There are some people that would prefer that Oilers CEO Bob Nicholson would come out and make a coaching decision so that the eventual GM doesn't have to, but that is not the road that Nicholson and the Oilers want to go on. They want to go with a more traditional approach, one where the hired general manager makes all coaching related decisions, including the one needed in regards to Hitchcock.