— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) July 11, 2019
Rangers Sign Kaapo Kakko
The Rangers selected Kakko second overall in the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft. After a stellar season playing in Finland, there was a chance Kakko could have gone number one overall. He was the top-ranked European skater by NHL Central Scouting. However, the Devils decided to take center Jack Hughes, leaving the Rangers with the easy choice of taking Kakko in the two-hole.
This past season, Kakko played in 45 games with TPS of SM Liiga (Finnish Elite League). He scored 38 points (22 goals and 16 assists). His 22 goals in 2018-19 were the most that any Under-18 player had registered in one season in the history of Finland’s top league. Kakko broke 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. He trails only Barkov (48 in 2012-13) and Mikael Granlund (40 in 2009-10).
What This Means for the Rangers Going Forward
Now that Kakko has officially signed his entry-level contract, he will most certainly be in the opening night lineup. Most second overall picks are NHL-ready. Unless the team feels he would be better served to play another year in junior or in Europe. In Kakko’s case, he has done all that he can do playing in Finland.
With the Rangers in the midst of a rebuild Kakko’s mentality of being a winner will help them overcome obstacles along the way. Look what he has done in the past 13 months (April 2018-May 2019). He won gold medals at the 2018 IIHF U18 World Championship, the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship, and the 2019 IIHF World Championship.
With the Rangers lacking offence the last couple of seasons, Kakko will be a great addition to a roster that now has Artemi Panarin on it. Kakko’s ability to skate in and out of traffic on the ice, control the puck in tight areas in both offensive and defensive zones and a shot that has been compared to the likes of Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, and Winnipeg Jets young star Patrik Laine will be helpful to the Rangers, especially on the power play.
General manager Jeff Gorton has done a lot this off-season to make the Rangers a competitive team in 2019-20. The Rangers already added Adam Fox, Jacob Trouba, and Panarin. They also bring back John Davidson as president of hockey operations. Now with Kakko in the fold, things are going in the right direction if you are New York Rangers fan.
VANCOUVER, BC – JANUARY 5: Kaapo Kakko #24 of Finland after scoring what proved to be the game winning goal in Gold Medal hockey action of the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship against the United States on January, 5, 2019 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)