After what most would consider a disappointing rookie season with the Rangers, questions arose whether Kaapo Kakko was going to live up to his potential. It’s crazy to think that after one season, especially since Kakko was only 18 years-old for most of the season.
Most people agree that there is something very special with Kakko and this year will be the one where he lets the entire NHL know.
Kakko is ready to become a top 6 forward
Kakko put up only 23 points (10G, 13A) last season which made fans wonder if he wasn’t truly ready for the NHL yet.
After a promising draft year of setting a LIIGA record of most goals for a player under 18, scoring the tournament winning goal in the WJC, and winning gold yet again, expectations were high for the young Finn.
Last year, Kakko admitted to being frustrated during the season and losing confidence in himself. It’s completely understandable for a teenager to feel the pressure and have it weigh him down.
When Kakko was drafted expectations were unfairly high. Some thought he could come into the league and score 20 goals and be a top 6 forward right away. The blame could be put on players like McDavid and Matthews who came into the league and became elite almost instantly. Different players, different circumstances.
Confidence is key for Kakko
Some players take more time to adjust to the NHL speed and physicality. That should be acceptable if they need that time. With expectations set so high Kakko was definitely too hard on himself, which explained his loss of confidence.
Looking at this season, Kakko looks poised and ready to step up and playing on a line with Panarin doesn’t hurt. With the departure of Fast, the Rangers needed someone to move up to play in his stead and the Rangers turned to Kakko to take on that responsibility.
All throughout training camp Kakko was placed on a line with Strome and Panarin, which is a great way to help Kakko realize his potential. Last season, Strome had a career high in points while playing on a line with the Breadman taking his career to the next level.
Playing on that line could not only help Kakko produce more, it could also help him with his confidence overall.
Another key factor that could help Kakko this season is the entrance of Alexis Lafrenière and a full season of Igor Shesterkin. It will be beneficial to Kakko if he is not the only young star under the radar, as eyes will be on the first overall pick and the supposed heir to Lundqvist as well. Less pressure, more fun, more Kakko goals.
With the Rangers first game of the season coming up tonight, Kakko will be looking to show himself and the rest of the league that he is ready to become a top player in this league for years to come.
Random Rangers Fact for the Day
Kaapo Kakko holds the record for most goals by an 18 year old in the Finnish professional league Liiga at 22 goals. This record beat out players Barkov, Laine, and Granlund.