Kakko and Hughes Face Off at World’s: Prologue to the future Rangers and Devils Rivalry
While many were at work or still sleeping, a hockey game was played in Slovakia that has visions on what potential Rangers vs Devils matchups could look like. Kaapo Kakko and the Finnish hockey team took on Jack Hughes and USA Hockey. Regardless of whether you think which one will go first or second, both will be playing in the area and this game potentially offers a matchup of what that could look like.
Finland and USA lining up before the game. Photo Credit: Steven Voogel aka Stat Boy Steven
A closely contested game, both teams were neck and neck and ultimately led to overtime. Dylan Larkin of the Detroit Red Wings ended it with a slick wrister to give the United States the 3-2 win. That being said, lets take a look at how both Hughes and Kakko looked for their respective teams.
Photo Credit: Petr David Josek | AP Photo
Although going pointless, Kaapo Kakko did not skip a beat today. He was all over the ice, as he was a noticeable presence for Finland. Every time he stepped on the ice, you knew where he was. Logging in almost 19 minutes of ice time, Kakko made a few nice passes that his mates missed, including one instance where he fought off USA defenseman Noah Hanifin and created a prime chance out in front of the net, but was missed by his linemate. He also bumped into Jack Hughes and showed off his puck handling and forecheck skills in the corner.
Kakko also had a superb shift in overtime where he basically created a scoring chance on his own, all while skating through the US defense. Kaako held onto it and maneuvered his way around Ryan Suter, who is no slouch on the back end.
It was hard to assess how Jack Hughes played due to him getting only around 7 minutes of ice time, but from what I saw, even though he went pointless, he still looked great out on the ice. His skating ability was superb as he was noticeable out there, even though he had a goose egg on the stat sheet. Hughes missed a prime chance in front of the Finnish goaltender in the first period where he shot the puck high and wide, alongside having a few strong forechecks in the offensive zone.
He didn’t play much but even with his seven plus minutes out there on the ice, you could see glimmers on why he’s a highly touted prospect. Jeff Blashill has a team loaded with veterans, so you could understand why he would defer to them first.
Monday’s Finland/USA matchup provided to us what could be many Rangers vs Devils matchups down the line. One being the Finnish player who lays it all on the ice and forces his way in, or the sleek skating, elite passer American kid who can blow past you and thread the needle for a scoring chance that has everyone in awe.
Regardless of what team takes what player, both the Rangers and the Devils are getting a game changing talent. Currently, Kaapo Kakko is making the most of his chances by being an absolute force for team Finland and rightly so, as he’s supremely talented and it worth a top 2 pick. His size and monster puck handling skills will undoubtedly boost whichever franchise selects him.
Although his tournament hasn’t gone the way he may have played it out, Jack Hughes is on the same level, maybe even better. A few low games does not take away months and months of previous bodies of work. Hughes is a highly talented player who will make a strong impact down the middle for whichever team near the Hudson selects him. His elite passing skills and sleek skating ability will be a breath of fresh air for two teams that haven’t had a player of this caliber in a long time.
The next few years are going to be fun, so strap yourselves in.