Kaapo Kakko solid as NY Rangers top right wing

One player benefitting from head coach Peter Laviolette’s line consistency is right winger Kaapo Kakko. The 2019 second overall pick is finally getting his chance playing big minutes on the New York Rangers’ top line alongside Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider.

Looking strictly at point production, some may be concerned about the 22-year-old forward. Kakko, who just notched his 100th career point in his 5th NHL season, is not thinking too much about stats. When asked about the milestone, he said, “I didn’t think about that before and even right now. It feels good, the first goal of the season feels good also.”

With only one goal and one assist through six games, why should he stay on the top line?

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Kaapo Kakko solid as NY Rangers top right wing

NHL: Preseason-Boston Bruins at New York Rangers
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Anyone who really watches Kakko knows that he is playing some of the best hockey in his career thus far. Albeit a slow start in terms of scoring, he has been a puck possession machine for the Rangers. He also has shown drastic improvement in his defensive play, which was a glaring weakness early on in his career.

According to NHL Edge, Kakko ranks in the top 82% of offensive zone time amongst all forwards. Prior to Tuesday’s game against Calgary, he was in the top 90%. Of the entirety of his time on ice, 45.2% has been spent in the offensive zone.

When he is on the ice, his skating and puck control has proven to be some of his best attributes. This allows the Rangers’ top line to spend more time in the opponents’ zone and generate offense. Combined, the top line has 13 points in six games. While Zibanejad and Kreider make up the bulk of the scoring, the work that Kakko does with and without the puck allows them to generate these chances.

It feels as though Kakko is right on the cusp of finding his scoring touch. His play has been incredible thus far, he just does not have the points to show for it. There are two things that he should be looking to do in order to try to generate more offense. Shoot more and get more high danger chances.

NHL Edge shows that Kakko is in the 64th percentile amongst all skaters in shooting percentage. He only has 10 shots on goal through six games. Certainly an area that can be addressed. Out of the shots he has taken, only three of them have come from high danger scoring areas. One of the three being his lone goal of the season against Seattle.

These numbers show that Kakko needs to take advantage of his strengths. His ability to skate with the puck along the perimeter of the offensive zone is some of the best in the league. If he can take this talent and use it to work his way off the perimeter and into high danger scoring areas, then he may be able to find more scoring opportunities and produce more offensively.

Peter Laviolette has had good things to say about the young forward. “I think (Kakko) has done a good job up with (Zibanejad and Kreider). They seem to be fitting in,” the head coach explained.

Early signs show that Kakko is setting himself up nicely as the New York Rangers’ top right-winger. He has had early chemistry with Zibanejad and Kreider as the unit has played well through six games. Should Laviolette keep them together, and all signs show that he will, their chemistry will only develop even more. If Kakko can find his scoring touch and work his way into those high danger scoring areas, this line can contend with the best in the league.

Dane Walsh is a life-long fan of the New York Rangers. Growing up in the tri-state area, Dane has... More about Dane Walsh

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