VANCOUVER — Jack Hughes will have something to celebrate when the 2019 NHL Draft is held at Rogers Arena this summer, but the United States center will need a while to get over the disappointment he experienced on the ice there on Saturday.
Hughes, the presumptive No. 1 pick, had an assist to start the United States rally from two goals down in the third period to tie the final of the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship. But it wasn’t enough. Kaapo Kakko scored on a rebound with 1:26 left to give Finland a 3-2 victory.
Second place and a bright future weren’t enough to console the 17-year-old.
“It’s just sad really,” Hughes said through tears.
Hughes, who missed the final three group games with an undisclosed injury, finished the elite under-20 tournament with four assists, 16 shots and an average ice time of 14:29 in four games.
He had four shots against Finland, including a breakaway stopped by Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen in the third period, but wasn’t ready to reflect on his play, or the chance to play with his brother, Vancouver Canucks defenseman prospect Quinn Hughes.
“Looking back on it in the future it will probably be good memories but right now it’s just [stinks] we lost,” Jack Hughes said. “Right now there’s no things I really want to learn from this. It’s sad. I don’t want to go through this again.”
The United States won the tournament in 2017 and finished third in 2016 and 2018, but that was little consolation to these players.
“There is not really much to say,” said forward Josh Norris (Ottawa Senators), who played in the tournament for the second straight year. “It’s pretty hard right now.”
It was Norris’ goal that tied the game 2-2 8:47 into the third period.
Montreal Canadiens goalie prospect Cayden Primeau hopes it gets easier with time.
“It hurts right now,” Primeau said. “Looking back on it we definitely will be able to wear it with honor and pride. You want gold but to be able to look at it and remember the memories I made on this trip, the people I meet and the relationships I formed.”