Katching Kakko: One of our own’s amazing draft day journey
April 9th, or in my case April 10th, was a huge day for Ranger fans all over the world. The draft lottery resulted in the 2nd overall pick for the team that has not picked top-3 since 1966 when they selected Brad Park 2nd overall.
Having followed Kaapo Kakko for the last 2 years, in several different countries, I was extremely happy. Maybe even happier than a potential 1st overall pick because there won’t be any debate over who we pick. Kakko is going to be the best prospect this organization has ever added to the organization on draft day and fans should be thrilled. After seeing Kakko play several times over the last 2 years, I finally had the opportunity to meet him back in May when Finland beat Russia at the Euro Hockey Tour in Brno (CZE). After the game, the 18-year old winger approached me and we spoke for a few minutes. It was a great experience and now I am in Vancouver.
Aside from meeting up with Kakko, I hope to meet the head of European scouting Nikolai Bobrov. The last few years have been really impressive for the Rangers drafting kids from Europe and as a fan living in Austria, it has given me the opportunity to travel to these countries and meet up with the prospects, meeting their families in some rare cases even. My life as a traveling Rangers fan has changed significantly, having these kids to follow around.
This morning I woke up at 4 AM in Vienna, Austria. I flew to Frankfurt where I switched to my 2nd flight taking me to Vancouver. 13 hours on a plane is a long time, but I made it. I will be in the building for the most memorable Rangers draft with their highest pick in over half a century.
Kakko and Bobrov
When I landed in Vancouver at 11 AM local time, I had 6 hours until the draft starts. I got to the city around 2 PM and as I was going for a walk around the arena, I was approached by several camera crews who recognized the jersey and wanted to interview me. I met up with fellow 4B writer James.
As fun as it was, the 2 things I really wanted to do, was to have my picture taken with Kaapo Kakko, as I didn’t have a chance to do that last month, and to meet Nikolai Bobrov, the director of EU scouting for the Rangers. We figured our best bet was to go in early, and try to catch Kakko before he’s drafted. Of course there’s a slight risk that he would go 1st overall still but it was a risk worth taking.
As Kakko approached section 115 where he would be sitting, he pointed at me and recognized me from the Euro Hockey Tour last month. The next 5-10 minutes were pretty crazy. We spoke for a few minutes, he signed some pucks and then he takes out his own phone, hands it to his agent and asks his agent to take a picture of us. Assuming he plays for the Rangers immediately, there’s a very small chance I will ever have this chance again so I wanted to make the most of it.
The final moment I want to share with everyone is after the draft. We wanted to go for a beer and some food, but the street was closed off. We noticed some NHL scouts crossing the street towards their bus and decided to stay there and see if we could maybe catch Nikolai Bobrov. Well, we saw them all. JD, Gorton, Drury, Clark, Quinn and eventually Nikolai Bobrov. And what he said next is something I will never forget. I asked if he could pose for a photo and he responds “Hey Steven. We know who you are” and walks straight towards us.
All in all, a successful day 1 and after being awake for 29 hours, I could really use a good night’s sleep.