Rangers Recall: Jimmy Vesey clutch, and the impact of Kaapo Kakko’s injury

The New York Rangers just didn’t have it on Monday night against the Buffalo Sabres en route to a 5-1 loss on home ice. It was certainly a letdown after a thrilling 7-4 thrashing of the Boston Bruins on Saturday. Head coach Peter Laviolette said in his postgame presser that the Rangers would address it and move on.

On Wednesday, versus a very gritty and tough defensive Detroit Red Wings squad, the Blueshirts battled hard in the third period to rally for a 3-2 victory.

Let’s review the Blueshirts’ win over Detroit.

Related: Rangers lose game and Kakko versus Sabres

Rangers Recall: Late rally beats Wings

Clutch Jimmy Vesey

Whether it’s his excellent hockeyIQ or his solid hand-eye coordination, Jimmy Vesey scores clutch goals.

Playing primarily in the Rangers bottom-six, the 30 year-old’s second tour of duty on Broadway has been a very good one. In 100 games since rejoining the team on a PTO last season, he’s registered 16 goals and 17 assists for 33 points. Of those 16 tallies, a staggering 37.5% have been game-winners (6 GWG).

“Everything is confidence,” Vesey noted. “When you see a goal go in the back of the net it helps everyone.”

This season alone, he’s already put home 5 goals, with 2 of them being the decisive scores. He’s well on pace to surpass his 2022-23 total of 11, but he was scratched early on this season. It’s something that Laviolette addressed after beating the Wings.

“I said at the time he didn’t deserve to be scratched,” Laviolette stated. “He’s a player that we count on and depend on for a lot of different things. Right now he seems to be in a little bit of a groove. as well. He works hard every day.”

Kaapo Kakko injury

NHL: Buffalo Sabres at New York Rangers
Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

The biggest story to come out of the loss to the Sabres was the injury to forward Kaapo Kakko. Despite his struggles offensively this season, the second overall pick in the 2019 draft has been a key contributor defensively.

The extent of the damage done to his left leg remains a mystery, but it was bad enough that the Rangers opted to place him on LTIR. Multiple reports followed that Kakko would miss significant time, but the injury was not season-ending.

“We’ll get him back at some point, which is good news,” Laviolette said. “But for the short term here, he’s out.”

Kakko, 22, only has 2 goals and 3 points in 20 games to date this season. To say that this is concerning for such a high draft pick entering his fifth NHL season would be an understatement. While the team was hoping to see an uptick in production once Filip Chytil returns, this could be a lost year for the big winger.

For those expecting Kakko to be traded this season, why would the Rangers move him when his value is at an all-time low? The biggest question is what his next contract will look like? Come July 1, he will be a restricted free agent with salary arbitration rights, and if he’s seeking a raise from his current $2.1M AAV things could get rocky this summer.

Of course, the biggest issues for today are what the lineup will look like once Chytil returns. Currently, Jonny Brodzinski is on the third line with Nick Bonino. I expect that the aforementioned Vesey has likely earned a promotion to that line once Chtyil comes off LTIR.

Another player to keep an eye on is highly-touted prospect Brennan Othmann down with the Hartford Wolf Pack. He’s currently heating up in the AHL with 6 points (3 goals, 3 assists) in his last five games.

Anthony Scultore is the founder of Forever Blueshirts and has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL... More about Anthony Scultore