Kaapo Kakko Will Be a Game-Changer for the Rangers

For the Rangers, this is a game-changer! — Blueshirts President John Davidson

Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton flipped a two-headed coin and guess what — Heads! He won.

Although selecting second in the 2019 NHL Draft, Gorton picked Kaapo Kakko, who many seasoned hockey critics — The Maven included — believed worthy of the first pick.

Gifted with the runner-up selection on Friday night in Vancouver, the Seventh Avenue Skaters nevertheless came out on top, nabbing The Finnish Flash. Kakko almost certainly will make the big club when training camp opens in September.

“We got ourselves a tremendous talent and a really good kid,” Davidson enthused. “He’s grounded and calm about everything.”

With appropriate modesty to fit the occasion, the 6-2, 194-pound Kakko accepted his acceptance with an appropriate blend of modesty and enthusiasm.

“Hopefully, I’m ready for the NHL,” the 18-year-old Kakko asserted. “But. I also know that I’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Kaapo Kakko has never been to New York. That's about to change very quickly. The newest Ranger speaks to the media after being selected 2nd overall.

How good Kid Kaapo will be, of course, remains to be seen but it would not be a stretch to suggest that the Manhattan sextet automatically is employing an early favorite to win the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year.

After all, not very long ago he was voted top freshman in the Finnish Elite League playing against stickhanders older and more experienced than Kakko.

Newsday‘s Andrew Gross and Colin Stephenson, together, offered this review: “Kakko is a big power forward who’s strong on the boards and goes into the [tough] areas.”

Plus, The Maven knows from hearing from experts, Kaapo is a Finn who finishes plays.

Which is not to suggest that the rival Devils did anything but do very-very-very well by selecting Jack Hughes with their top pick.

But, let’s face it, the qualitative difference between Kakko and New Jersey’s first choice, Hughes, is as close as a goal post and its crossbar. But there were facts that had me believing that Devils general manager Ray Shero might lean toward the Finn.

Kakko is more experienced than Hughes. Also, Kaapo starred in the recently-completed Worlds Tourney — out-playing Hughes — and is considered more ready for major-league action because of his size and experience playing against top-flight competition.

Jussi Ahokas, one of the most foremost hockey coaches in Finland, has no doubts that Kaapo could segue right on to the Rangers lineup, perhaps as starting right wing for coach David Quinn. Ahokas’ scouting report is worth noting:

“Kaapo has good size, but he still has to grow, strength-wise,” says Ahokas. “If this Summer he works hard, he’ll be ready for the Rangers, for sure.”

The bible of our sport, The Hockey News, reiterated, “There isn’t very much separating Kakko from Hughes.”

A respected scout who watched Kakko excel in Finland waxed glowingly about the Rangers’ new prize.

“The things he’s done with the puck at his age,” the bird dog insists, “no one has done this.”

Among other accomplishments, Kakko set a Finnish record for goal-scoring by an under-18 player in the Liga, Finland’s Elite League. He also scored the decisive goal for his country in the Worlds Championships in Vancouver.

Finland's Kaapo Kakko is an electric player and will land either with the New Jersey Devils at No. 1 or the New York Rangers at No. 2 in the 2019 NHL Draft. Here's what you need to know about Central Scouting's #2 ranked prospect. Don't miss coverage of Rookie Week all week long on MSG, MSG GO and throughout the MSG 150!

Another reputable scouting report notes that Kaapo has everything that the Rangers need in a rookie right wing. “He defends well,” the scout reports. “is strong down low, has the creativity and a finishing touch. For his age, he’s really strong and adds a bit of feistiness as well.”

One other historical note worth remembering. During the 1949-50 season, the Rangers’ starting left wing was Finnish-born Pentti Lund.

And when the Rangers faced off in the 1950 playoffs against the Montreal Canadiens, Lund was assigned to guard “The Babe Ruth Of Hockey,” Maurice Richard.

Lund not only smothered the man called The Rocket, but also wound up being the Blueshirts’ scoring star in their five-game victory over Montreal.

Author Matthew Blittner, who has written an oral history of outstanding Rangers moments, believes that the Blueshirts have nabbed a superstar-in-the-making.

“Kaapo could wind up being in a class with those other high Draft picks of yesteryear,” says Blittner, “and I’m talking about Brad Park and Brian Leetch, each a Hall of Famer!”

When, and if, that happens — with Henrik Lundqvist’s okay, of course — we’d have to anoint him “King Kaapo!”