With the Second Overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, the New York Rangers selected Finnish RW Kaapo Kakko.
From the Rangers release:
- Kakko, 18, skated in 45 games with TPS of Liiga (Finnish Elite League) this past season, registering 22 goals and 16 assists for 38 points, along with a plus-one rating and 10 penalty minutes.
- Kakko’s 22 goals in 2018-19 were the most any U18 player has registered in one season in the history of Finland’s top league, breaking the record of 21 set by Aleksander Barkov in 2012-13.
- In addition, Kakko’s 38 points this past season were the third-most in one season by a U18 player in the history of Finland’s top league, trailing only Barkov (48 in 2012-13) and Mikael Granlund (40 in 2009-10).
- The 6-2, 194-pounder was named the Rookie of the Year in Liiga in 2018-19. Kakko tied for sixth in Liiga (and led all rookies) in goals during the past season.
- He also tied for second in the league in game-winning goals (seven). Kakko led TPS in goals and game-winning goals, tied for second on the team in shot attempts (228), and tied for third in points this past season, and he also ranked second among team forwards in average ice time in 2018-19 (18:11).
- He ranked third among all Liiga rookies (and led Liiga rookie forwards) in average ice time during the past season. Kakko also skated in five games with TPS during the 2019 Playoffs, registering four goals and one assist for five points.
- His four goals during the 2019 Playoffs were tied for the second-most by a U18 player in one year in the history of Liiga (Patrik Laine holds the record – 10 during the 2016 Playoffs). Kakko tied for fourth among all players in Liiga – and led all rookies in the league – in goals during the playoffs this past year.
- Including the playoffs, he registered 20 points (14 goals, six assists) over his final 18 games of the season.
Craig Button of TSN described him as a player with “a force of skill and will below the circles” that “makes him a very difficult player to contain.”
He’s listed by TSN to be a “complete elite right winger” and comparable to Florida’s Jonathan Huberdeau.
His ratings from TSN are:
- Skating: 4/5
- Hockey Sense: 5/5
- Competitiveness: 5/5
- Puck Skills: 4.5/5
- Scoring: 4/5
The 2019 Future Considerations Draft Guide describes Kakko as, “a deceptive presence who’s really slippery for a player of his build, Kakko doesn’t have any major flaws to his game.”
They add that “displaying spectacular puck skills, he’s strong in the corners and has shown that he’s a beast physically. His ability to do lots of small things right with the puck is a tremendous asset.”
The McKeens Draft Guide said “his weakest attribute, his physicality, is still pretty good, and it is the least important facet in his game, as well as the modern sport as a whole. Even there, he is quite good, regularly winning puck battles in the corners against far more experienced opponents. Everything else that he does suggests that he can be a superstar in the NHL in short order.”
They add, “he digs in the corners like a fourth line grinder and protects the puck like a man 35 pounds heavier. And good luck trying to move him from the front of the net. He needs the bare minimum of room to make things happen with the puck and his stick is a lethal weapon whether he has the puck or not. When he doesn’t have it, he understands how to use the blade for maximum advantage by pressuring opponents, taking away their time and space and eliminating passing and shooting lanes.”
Adam Rotter: At long last Kaapo Kakko is finally, officially, a member of the Rangers organization. They would have been happy to take Jack Hughes if he was there but the Rangers draft a player in Kakko that could step into their lineup next season and hopefully combine with Vitali Kravtsov, Filip Chytil, Lias Andersson, Brett Howden, Pavel Buchnevich an Mika Zibanejad, among others, to form the forward group that brings the Rangers back to the playoffs and beyond. He will likely be the favorite, and first Ranger since Brian Leetch, to win the Calder and be the most exciting young Ranger forward since Chris Kreider or Pavel Buchnevich. The Rangers still have a lot of building and developing to do but having Kakko in the mix will be a big boon for John Davidson, Jeff Gorton, Chris Drury and David Quinn moving forward.