by OddsShark (@OddsShark)
Oddsmakers have their mind made up on who will be the first player called to the stage at the NHL Draft on Friday, which leaves a small window of possibility open for taking the underdog.
Jack Hughes is an enormous -1200 favorite (wager $1200 to win $100) to be the first overall pick on the 2019 NHL Draft odds at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com, while Kaapo Kakko is the only other player with odds available at +600 (wager $100 to win $600). The first round of the draft takes place at Vancouver’s Rogers Arena on Friday night.
Hughes is a playmaking center who has been anointed as the best player in his draft class for years, and he had 34 goals and 112 points in 50 games last season with the Ann Arbor-based U.S. National Team Development Program (NTDP). Three of the last 13 No. 1 picks played for what graduates simply call “the program.”
Kakko, a left-shot right wing and born goal scorer, had 22 goals and 38 points in 45 games for TPS Turku as a 17-year-old competing in Finland’s domestic pro league, and he also held his own against older competition when he scored six goals in 10 games for Finland at the world championship in May.
Hughes looks like a lock to go No. 1, and teams with the top pick typically opt for a center as a building block instead of a wing. The New Jersey Devils might well have their mind set on Hughes at No. 1, but a just-in-case play on Kakko at +600 is hard to pass up.
There are plenty of intriguing draft position betting props. Kirby Dach, a 6-foot-4 playmaking center from the Saskatoon Blades, has concerns about his skating that might push him to the over (-125) on his prop of 5.5. Fellow center Dylan Cozens of the Lethbridge Hurricanes also has a 5.5 prop (-165 over, +120 under). Taking the under (+130; over is -180) on the 6.5 prop for Cole Caufield, a skilled but diminutive (5-foot-7) right wing who played with Hughes at the NTDP offers both better value and the chance to turn the tables on traditional scouting.
The lowest prop for any player out of the Ontario Hockey League is 18.5 for Mississauga Steelheads defenseman Thomas Harley (-140 under, even-money over). Harley has the right confluence of speed, size and offensive knowhow to make him a safe pick somewhere in the teens; teams picking in the middle to late stages of Round 1 often look for earlier-maturing all-around players, since they have less of the bust potential than can backfire on an NHL team’s amateur scouts.
That makes the under (-120; over also -120) on Barrie Colts center Ryan Suzuki, the brother of Montreal Canadiens prospect Nick Suzuki, a good play.
Sportsbooks are not giving a prop on another OHL hopeful, the Hamilton Bulldogs’ Arthur Kaliyev, who had a 50-goal season as a 17-year-old in the under-20 league but can be found anywhere from top-10 to out of the first round in myriad mock drafts due to doubts about his work ethic. There is an intriguing who-goes-first prop with the Victoria Grizzlies’ Alex Newhook (-125), Kaliyev (+215) and Halifax Mooseheads center Raphael Lavoie (+255). Kaliyev is worth taking here on those NHL odds if one favors production over nit-picking.
The first round is expected to be dominated by American players, with an over/under of 7.5 (-130 over, -110 under) on the number of NTDP players taken in the first round. The Western Hockey League’s prop is 5.5 (-125 over, -115 under).
The OHL has an uncharacteristic prop of 4.5 (-145 over, even-money under) and might be worth fading due to the wide difference in opinion on both Kaliyev and Peterborough Petes right wing Nick Robertson, two players on whom OVER hopes would rest. The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League has a prop of 2.5 (-125 over, -115 under), but Lavoie is that league’s only surefire first-rounder.
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