Who is Kaapo Kakko? An in-depth look at the Rangers potential new franchise player
As my alarm went off at 1:45 AM, I got up, still half asleep and needing a few minutes. But here it was, the night we have been waiting for. A potential franchise-altering night for the Rangers.
The draft lottery gave the team the best possible outcome with the second overall pick. There won’t be any debate on who will be the best player available. It will be either Jack Hughes or Kaapo Kakko, depending on who the New Jersey Devils select first overall. The consensus second overall pick is Kaapo Kakko. But who is this Finnish player ranked so high?
Born and raised in Turku, the young dynamic winger has played his entire life for the local team, TPS. Some Rangers fans may recognize the name because it’s the same team Tarmo Reunanen played for when he was drafted by the Blueshirts in 2016 (98th overall) before he moved to Lukko where he played this past season. Last summer, the Rangers drafted another TPS player in Lauri Pajuniemi (132nd overall) and also goalie Alexandar Georgiev has a history with the team. Kaapo Kakko could be the fourth TPS player added to the Rangers system in the last three years.
He has been ahead of the curve at every age level so far in his already impressive career. 36 points in 33 games as a 14-year old at the u16 level, 41 points in 35 games as a 15-year old at the u18 level and 55 points in 38 games as a 16-year old at the u20 level. But what was most impressive was him breaking Aleksander Barkov’s record for goals in Liiga by an u18 player with 22. Kakko has been the consensus second overall pick for the 2019 draft, and the Rangers will get a great prospect with the lottery pick.
At the international level, Kakko has won gold at the u18 and u20 World Junior championships and has declared he will skip this year’s u18 WJC to compete with the senior national team at the World Championships in Bratislava and Košice (Slovakia) in May 2019.
Laine 2.0 or Barkov 2.0?
But what type of player is Kakko? The comparisons to Winnipeg’s Patrik Laine and Florida’s Sasha Barkov, two other Finns picked 2nd overall, are easy to make but how accurate are they? The Laine comparison doesn’t really make much sense because Kakko is a more complete player. At 6’2″ and 190 lbs, he’s one of the bigger teenagers in all of Europe. What is most impressive about Kakko is his ability to out-muscle his opponents in Liiga. Those opponents are grown men, and Liiga is a top-five league in the world behind the NHL, KHL, SHL and AHL.
His hockey IQ is off the charts as well. He reads the game so well, allowing him to always be a step ahead of his opponents. He protects the puck well and possesses a rare combination of skill, compete level and physical strength for a teenager. Kakko turned 18 on February 13th and is ready to make the leap to the NHL this coming season.
Kakko is the complete package with skill, strength, hockey IQ, size, puck handling and maturity. Personally, I am looking forward to the Euro Hockey Tour in Brno and the World Championships in Bratislava. I may have two more opportunities to see Kakko in action before he moves to North America this summer. This kid is different from prospects like Chytil, Kravtsov, Lundkvist, Miller and Andersson. This pick will change the franchise.
I cannot wait for June!