Rangers Roundup: Kakko bulks up; Gallant to debut Broadway’s “Identity Line”; and more

kaapo kakko
Jan 2, 2020; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; New York Rangers right wing Kaapo Kakko (24) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the Calgary Flames during the second period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

This is a big year for Kaapo Kakko and expectations are high. He’s entering his third season and the 20 year-old #2 pick overall from the 2019 Draft realized he needed to make some changes.

“I was back in Finland, working out a little bit,” he said. Kakko almost sounded like he was downplaying how much work he put in as he’s added between 7-10 pounds of muscle to his frame.

Kaapo Kakko bulks up for third NHL season

At 6-3 and 205 lbs, Kakko is physically no kid, despite his tender age. He also realized after two hard NHL seasons what it will take to compete.

“I think guys over here, they are bigger and stronger, so I need to be like the same level as those guys,” he admitted. “This is a big season for me. First season wasn’t so good, and last season was so different.”

Kakko finished the 2020-21 campaign with 17 points on the strength of 8 goals in 48 games. However, this season he’s already being penned on to a line with Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome. It’s a big opportunity and he seems set on not wasting it.

“I think I need to go to the net a little more,” he said about playing with that line. “I still can keep the puck and make some chances for those guys. I know both are very good players, so I think if I’m just going to the net, maybe some chances are coming for me.”

His new head coach sees a lot a promise in his young star too. “You want complete hockey players, and I think he’s very capable,” Gallant said. “He’s going to keep getting better, the kid is going to be an outstanding player.”

Broadway’s “Identity Line”

The rival Islanders have their “Identity Line” with Casey Cizikas, Cal Clutterbuck, and Matt Martin. Matter of fact, in the preseason opener, those two guys did most of the damage in a 4-0 loss.

Tonight, against the Bruins we will see Sammy Blais, Kevin Rooney, and Ryan Reaves show us what they can bring to the Rangers. It’s Broadway’s version of the “Identity Line.”

ryan reaves on rangers identity line
Mar 25, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Vegas Golden Knights right wing Ryan Reaves (75) before the game against the Colorado Avalanche at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

“It’s been going pretty good,” Blais said yesterday. “We’re three big guys, and I know we’re going to put pucks deep and wear D’s down. [Reaves] is a big boy, and he skates really well. Me and Rooney are pretty excited to play with him and if we support each other we will be really successful.”

Gallant was also asked about the unit and was pretty straightforward about what he expects. “It’s a physical group that should be able to get some forecheck and take the body,” he stated. “We need some of that grit.”

When asked if he thinks that line can do it, he shot back quickly, “they better.”

The total weight of that line is 620 pounds and its average height is 6-2″. Size matters in the NHL and the Blueshirts Identity Line will look to set the tone tonight.

NHL Rumors

Two early candidates are emerging for the this season’s NHL Trade Deadline. Check it out here.