Kaapo Kakko believes the New Jersey Devils could select him first overall at the NHL draft next month.
The Finnish prospect has long been the presumptive No. 2 pick behind American forward Jack Hughes. But Kakko is excelling at the World Championship in Slovakia, and he recognizes that could sway the Devils into selecting him.
"This is a big thing for me for the draft," Kakko said at the tournament through a translator, according to NHL.com's Aaron Vickers. "I think I can be the first (pick)."
Kakko is among the leaders in goals at the worlds with six markers over five games. He's outshining Hughes, who collected his first point at the tourney on Saturday.
"I've played well," Kakko said. "I haven't paid much attention to Jack Hughes and his game, but I'm confident I've been able to let everyone see my skills and the level of my game. It's not going to be an easy choice for the teams."
Hughes topped NHL Central Scouting's final list of North American skaters, while Kakko finished atop the final rankings for international skaters.
"It's great that people are interested in me and my game, of course," Kakko said. "I'm glad I've been able to play well and execute. There are so many great NHL players in this tournament and it's huge I've been able to play well against them. I'm hoping I could play in the NHL."
No player from Finland has been chosen first overall in the NHL draft. The Winnipeg Jets took Finnish forward Patrik Laine second in 2016 after the now 21-year-old said he was worthy of the No. 1 selection. The Toronto Maple Leafs drafted Auston Matthews with the top pick that year.