Rangers counting on Kakko

Kakko (Andre Ringuette/Getty Images)

Step one for the future of the franchise was to make the Rangers out of camp… Mission Accomplished! Last night, Kaapo Kakko did not play along with the AMP line (Panarin, Zibanejad, Buchnevich) and his fellow line-mates Chris Kreider and Ryan Strome. Now the 18 year old #2 pick overall in the 2019 draft is going to be relied on heavily to provide secondary scoring and make a serious bid to win Rookie of the Year (Calder Trophy).

Proper Expectations

Let’s start off that the expectations for Kaapo Kakko this year from the Rangers are straight forward and don’t include any point benchmarks:

  1. Play his game
  2. Be responsible with the puck
  3. Contribute offensively
  4. Show progress every game
  5. Respond well when scratched

That’s it! Anyone saying that “if you compare him to these players and apply this formula it will result in a 25 goal season and 60 points” is guessing even if they are using a spreadsheet. The truth is that when the organization is evaluating Kakko they are using the points stated above as a guideline.

Kounting Kakko’s Projected Points

Now I wouldn’t be a good hypocrite if I didn’t attempt to project his points myself. The one variable that really will dictate what Kakko can do point wise is how much ice time he gets. Last year’s Calder winner, Elias Pettersson played 18:14 per game and Matthew Barzal who won it in 2017-18 did it playing 17:46. Those are top 6 minutes and right now Kakko is slated for the 2nd line and 2nd PP unit. Another thing to note is that the Rangers are going to roll four lines more than most teams. All this is going to impact his production, especially if he plays under 17 minutes per game.

Kakko (Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

Pettersson tallied 66 points in 71 games and Barzal an astounding 85 in 82. These are impressive numbers and if Kakko gets that kind of ice time he should be able to put up similar stats. Still the big concern for me is if Ryan Strome can produce consistently enough as the 2nd line center for Kakko to be effective.

Unfortunately, Filip Chytil who was slated to be the 2C heading into camp struggled mightily this preseason. His struggles may actually earn him a spot in Hartford to start the year. Still if Strome does not produce, Quinn can either move up Lias Andersson who looks all of the 7th pick overall in the 2017 draft, or Vlad Namestnikov who had a very impressive camp.

Based off of all this information, I can see Kakko easily putting up a 25 goal and 60 point campaign. If Quinn moves Kakko up to the 1st line or even the 1st PP unit, Kakko could flirt with an 80 point season. Some Rangers fans aren’t used to talking about rookies like this, but you have to understand Kakko is no ordinary prospect. He, like his counterpart in NJ Jack Hughes are the equivalent of Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin and their rivalry will be similar. You can expect to see them face off on NBC’s hockey broadcasts often over the next 15 years.

The Finnish Force

The Rangers are expecting a lot out of Kaapo Kakko this season. Even though he only picked up one assist in three preseason games he played 17:46 with 3:32 of it coming on the PP. When he was on the ice, especially with players like Mika Zibanejad and Artemiy Panarin he looked mature beyond his years. There is no reason for us to expect him to look lost out there and not be a commanding presence. The Finnish Force (copyright 2019) is ready to show the world why he is considered one of the premier prospects in the NHL today. All the Rangers fans have to do is sit back and enjoy the show.

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