Kaapo Kakko loses Tuomo Ruutu as he leaves Rangers to become Panthers assistant coach

The New York Rangers have lost Tuomo Ruutu to the Florida Panthers. Ruutu was instrumental in helping Kaapo Kakko transition over to North America after being drafted in 2019.

He served as the assistant director of player development with the Rangers this past season and will now become an assistant coach in Florida.

“We are proud to welcome Tuomo to the Panthers and receive him as an addition to Joel’s coaching staff,” said Panthers General Manager Bill Zito. “With his career in hockey spanning multiple decades, we believe his experience both as a player and working in player development in the NHL and internationally will be an invaluable addition to our organization as we prepare for an exciting 2021-22 campaign.”

Panthers

Tuomo Ruutu helped Kappo Kakko

During his rookie season, I spoke with Pasi Tuominen who was assigned to cover Kakko for Finnish media. We discussed his adjustment to North America after leaving Finland.

kaapo kakko
May 3, 2021; New York, New York, USA; Kaapo Kakko #24 of the New York Rangers celebrates his goal at 4:35 of the second period against the Washington Capitals at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Bennett/POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports

Q: It’s well documented that Kakko misses home and not having any Finnish players on the team makes it harder, has he expressed how he copes with that? Has he said he’d like to have a Finnish teammate?

A: Well, it’s clear he wouldn’t mind some Finnish company. During training camp, he roomed with fellow Finn Tarmo Reunanen and obviously enjoyed it (by the way, Reunanen didn’t make the cut and is doing well with Lukko Rauma in the Liiga now). In addition, (Assistant Director of Player Development) Tuomo Ruutu has spent some time in New York helping Kaapo and other younger players.

“Being away from his Finnish-speaking family members and friends is an essential part of Kaapo’s learning process,” Tuominen continued. “Early Finnish NHLers like Jari Kurri had to make do without much support from Finnish-speakers, and after rocky starts they turned out fine; so will Kaapo, but there will be growing pains.”

Ruutu was certainly instrumental in helping Kakko adjust. We wish Ruutu much success in his new role.

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