The New York Rangers were in a win-win situation with the second overall pick in this year’s NHL Entry Draft, happy to take whoever the rival New Jersey Devils didn’t at No. 1. When the Devils, as expected, selected American center Jack Hughes, the Rangers were happy to swoop in an take Finnish winger Kaapo Kakko. Kakko did everything he could to push Hughes this season and few will argue that he isn’t the most pro-ready prospect in the draft class.
At 6’2″ and 190 lbs., Kakko already has NHL size but even more evident is his NHL ability. A strong player who can win puck battles and crash the net, Kakko can also just as easily stick handle around the opposition with finesse and vision. More importantly, his elite instincts allow him to nearly always know which approach to take. A goal-scoring threat at all times, Kakko will quickly become a dangerous presence at the NHL level.
Several of his soon-to-be competitors already got a glimpse of what he is capable of at the recent World Championships. Kakko notching six goals and an assist in ten games for Team Finland, showing that pro competition isn’t going to slow him down. In fact, he displayed that all year in the Finnish Liiga, recording 22 goals and 38 points in 45 games against older and more experienced players, and only improved as the year went on, as he showed with a point-per-game postseason performance. If that growth continues, Kakko will become the star of the Rangers’ impressive young core and could become one of the biggest names in hockey with major production in a massive market.