Expectations were high when the New York Rangers drafted Kaapo Kakko second overall last June. All season long, he has slowly emerged, playing in a variety of roles. Here are three things we learned about the rookie this year.
With the NHL season put on pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are many things fans can happily look back on. For the New York Rangers, this team went through many changes in their continuing effort to rebuild. One of those changes included the addition of the second overall draft pick, Kaapo Kakko. There was so much hype behind this pick, and many felt that this could help the Blueshirts.
As we watched most of the season, there were many things Blueshirts fans learned about the talented winger from Finland. No matter what your opinion is of him, there are many positive things Kakko has shown this season. Here are the top three things that we learned about Kaapo Kakko in 2019-20.
1. Kakko is a team player
When the season started, and as it went on, fans saw Kakko jump around the lineup in various roles. He was regularly put on different lines by Head Coach David Quinn and never really had a set spot. The difference between his offensive zone starts, and defensive zone start is under three percent. Kakko is a rookie and needs to learn. He never once complained.
We can all agree that his defense still needs work. A +/- of -26, in 66 NHL games, won’t cut it in the long run. Despite his backend shortcomings, Kakko was eighth among New York Rangers forwards with 14:15 minutes of ice time per night. Quinn wouldn’t put him out there if he a) was a liability or b) couldn’t handle it.
It didn’t matter to him if he played with Mika Zibanejad or Greg McKegg on his line. Despite the changes, Kakko showed his dedication to learning the NHL game, and desire to fit in with the New York Rangers long-term.