Alexis Lafreniere Kaapo Kakko

What John Davidson said about Jack Johnson, Kakko, development and more

Rangers President John Davidson was a guest on the Cam and Strick Podcast this week and said the following about the Rangers:

  • On signing Jack Johnson, “we signed him for one-year, it fit into the cap situation we are in. We had a terrible penalty killing team last year, Jack killed in Pittsburgh, where they were 10th in the league, and we also brought in a forward with the last name Rooney, with NJ, they were sixth last year. I know Jack, Jack is a good person, so that helps but the biggest plus was Jacques Martin is now part of our coaching staff, Lindy Ruff was coaching the D here and he’s now the head coach in NJ, so we had a hole to fill and Jacques Martin was part of two Cups there, he wanted to work for us, we hired him and then we called him on Jack and Jack was very good for him last year and he would endorse what we are trying to do with Jack, it was a fit for us. We have a lot of kids. There are some franchises in this league with a lot of depth with kids and I don’t know if anybody has more than what we have, especially after getting lucky with the #1 pick and Lafreniere, but we have a lot of defense coming down the road but we have to get there and we have to battle. Jack works hard in the weight room, so kids will see how that happens. We will get through it but we think he’s going to help us in a lot of different areas.”
  • On who he would compare Lafreniere to, “I don’t want to put that on him, because I don’t think it’s right, but this kid is mature for his age. He carries himself like he’s been around the pro ranks for 5-6 years, he’s close to 200lbs already, he likes to carry the puck through the neutral zone like Panarin does and drive the play, not as a center but as a winger, it’s interesting to see that. His play at the World Juniors and on the international stage, when you are on the Canadian team and a captain and expected to do things, he delivered and was an MVP of the tournament and they won gold. I think he gets all of that. We are lucky. I will say this though and I’m proud of this, maybe I’m not right and should have done it differently, maybe it wasn’t the smartest thing but in St. Louis, Columbus and in NY, I’ve never tanked, never been part of a tank job. This time, with us not tanking and being a competitive team, even though we are young, young, young and have a lot of future, we got lucky and got the number one pick and I feel good about that.”
  • More on Lafreniere, “The one thing I’ll say about Lafreniere being up in Quebec, he’s controlled that league for two straight years, as a 17-18 year old, it’s not too often you see that anywhere, that really tells you how good this kid could be.”
  • On Kaapo Kakko last season, “he came over here, new country, new ice size, it’s a lot of things. He had real good moments and other moments where he suffered some. What was really interesting was that he went home and then came back for the bubble, he was a different guy. It was like he put in 2-3 years of maturity and he played really well. Now he’s gone home and our coach David Quinn, he’s in touch with all of our players all the time, comes into my office and we talk about it. He says ‘you wouldn’t believe, he’s just a different person, he’s trusting, mature, working out.’ We tend to think about these guys that they will just come in and be stars, there are not many that do that anymore. You look at Hughes, the number one pick in NJ, same thing. We have to understand how young these guys are and how good the league is. We will see them mature and improve and become terrific players but we have to be intelligent with our patience level to make sure it happens instead of creating problems where we are wishing for too much too early and it stunts the growth of the player.”
  • On developing prospects, “they all go home with their programs and then we have our strength and conditioning guys and head coach call and check-in all the time, there are zoom things you can do. The other thing is development coaches and over in Europe we have Tuomo Ruutu, who played in the league, who is outstanding and he is hands on all the time seeing all these guys. That is a big part of their job, the offseason. We have two more over here in Jed Ortmeyere and Tanner Glass, they are great at what they do, really, really good at what they do. They get to know the players, we just had the draft and they called every player we drafted either that night or the next morning and have already started the relationship. I remember a story last year, Tanner Glass was in Edmonton and we have a kid out there named Robertson who plays junior there, a defenseman, pretty good player, and Tanner Glass went up and watched him play and he had a practice the next day and, sure enough, he went and talked to the coach and put his gear on and he was practicing with him and getting to know the kid on the ice.”
  • On developing relationships with the prospects, “you have to understand what makes a kid tic, and you can’t do that with a telephone conversation. You have to get to know them, see how they act in a restaurant, what they eat, it’s on and on and on like that. The development people, once you draft these kids, are so important for the organization, it’s just gigantic. You see a number of teams now, I know we do it with our farm team in Hartford, we make sure the kids are fed at the rink because you’d rather be hands on and knowing what they are eating, you have to eat right.”