Kaapo Kakko may start season on NY Rangers first line

Kaapo Kakko is entering his fourth NHL season after being the second overall selection by the New York Rangers in the 2019 draft. His development has been slow going by many accounts, but there’s always been forward progress which shouldn’t be discounted.

Management and Kakko were hoping for a breakout year in 2021-22, but he was only able to record 18 points in 43 games due to three different stints on the injured list.

This summer, the 21 year-old from Turku, Finland signed a two-year deal with an AAV of $2.1 million. For his career, he’s amassed 58 points in 157 games games.

As things are shaking out in training camp, Kakko may be getting a real opportunity to start on the first line.

Kaapo Kakko looks like he’ll open on first line

Kaapo Kakko
Jan 13, 2022; San Jose, California, USA; New York Rangers right wing Kaapo Kakko (24) during the first period against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers opened up camp with several days of scrimmages that included Sammy Blais on the first line with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider. However, it was Kaapo Kakko who got the first call on right wing in the team’s first preseason game, a 4-1 win versus the Islanders.

In that contest, Kakko picked up an assist on a goal by Zac Jones and didn’t look out of place. He was then moved back to the Kid Line with Alexis Lafreniere and Filip Chytil, where he scored two goals in the team’s last game versus the Bruins.

Kakko has looked strong in camp and it’s evident his confidence level is high.

“It feels good when you score a goal,” Kakko said on Thursday. “It’s always a good thing. I’m just trying to be as good as I can. That’s what we need to do.”

This offseason, Kakko really worked on his skating and his shot. In what became a viral video, he was seen ripping a slap shot that registered 107 mph and it’s something that could benefit him on that first line.

“I started with the gym and did more skating after that,” Kakko noted about his training in Finland. “I think my shot is getting better– a little bit.”

On Friday, the Rangers conducted practice and for the second consecutive day, Kakko skated with Kreider and Zibanejad.

“I like to play with [Mika and Chris],” Kakko explained. “I played the first game with those guys and it was a good game for us. We played good as a line and if we play together tomorrow it will be another good game for us.”

As of right now, it looks like Kakko will get another crack at being the first line right wing. It’s a huge opportunity for him and for the Rangers, who have been patiently waiting for him to breakout.

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