Realistic expectations for Kaapo Kakko

Kaapo Kakko is the best prospect the Rangers have had in their history. That is no hyperbole. He is a better prospect than Brian Leetch was. He is a better prospect than any other Rangers legend you can think of that was drafted by this team. The keyword here, of course, is prospect. Leetch didn’t have as much hype as Kakko, but he turned into an elite defenseman, the best the organization has ever had. At that point, though, he wasn’t a prospect, he was a legend.

Therein lies the difference between prospect and legitimate NHLer. Kakko has the chance to be the best offensive player in the history of the Rangers, but that assumes a lot of things go right in his hopefully long and fruitful NHL career. The first thing he needs to do, though, is show up to camp and not just make the team, but make the cut in the top-six and be given legitimate offensive opportunities. That shouldn’t be a problem, assuming he signs his ELC before September.

However once he signs and hopefully makes –there’s still a remote chance he starts in the AHL– the roster, he has work to do. He’s also a rookie, so he’s going to make mistakes. He’s not Connor McDavid, so he’s not going to tear the league apart in his first season. But he will compete with for a Calder Trophy, or at least he should.

Here’s the thing with the hype in New York, most fans are impatient, and he’s going to have his haters as soon as he sets foot on the ice and doesn’t score in his first game. You guys laugh, but there are fans itching to find negatives about anything. What if the kid hits a slump and goes scoreless for ten games? He’s 18, it’s possible, and probable, that this will happen.

Let’s look at the previous 2nd overall picks in the past few seasons, and how they performed in their rookie years:

  • Andrei Svechnikov (Carolina – 2018): 20-17-37 in 82 games
  • Nolan Patrick (Philly – 2017): 17-17-30 in 73 games
  • Patrik Laine (Winnipeg – 2016): 36-28-64 in 73 games
  • Jack Eichel (Buffalo – 2015): 24-32-56 in 81 games
  • Sam Reinhart (Buffalo – 2014): 23-19-42 in 79 games

Aside from Laine, there are no 30 goal or 60 point scorers in the bunch. That’s not to say it isn’t possible, since Kakko is from the same league as Laine, and Kakko outscored Laine in his draft year. It’s also looking like Kakko is a more complete player than Laine, although Laine has the better shot.

Expecting him to be Laine in his rookie season is probably on the high end of the hopes, while expecting him to be Nolan Patrick is on the completely pessimistic side of things. However I think expecting 20 goals and 50 points is somewhat realistic. I wouldn’t call him a bust if he falls a little short, but I wouldn’t call him a savior if he puts up 30 and 60 either.

This is a great time to be a Rangers fan, and I have never been more excited about the direction of this club. It has reinvigorated me with writing for this blog and keeping it running. However as excited as I am, I don’t want it ruined by expecting too much from an 18 year old kid. I probably sound like a Debbie Downer right now, but I’d rather not be disappointed if he doesn’t put up 90 points in his first season.

"Realistic expectations for Kaapo Kakko", 5 out of 5 based on 23 ratings.
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    1. Wrong! Richter……

      51 Goals
      Calder Trophy
      Division Finals and SCF MVP
      Ranger win cup…….LOL

  1. He would’ve been a 50pt player last year.

    50pts should be the floor as long as he’s top 6.

  2. Let’s be realistic. He has to get used to the NHL rink. If he does 40 points be happy.

  3. before panarin there would have been more focus on his start. now he can kind of “ease” into it. 50-60 points also assumes the coach isn’t going to drag him through the mud like they always do. they took him #2 overall, he goes on the pp etc. I look at Barkov now and you see 24 points then 36 and now 96. remember at age 18 chytil was sent down to ahl after 2 games. so pretty much any production is a step above.

  4. Laine is probably an outliner because he is mostly a shooter. Kaapo makes plays with the puck so the transition and adjustment figure to be greater. If he scores 20 goals and 45 points thats a good enough and realistic starting point for a trajectory to future greatness.

  5. Realistically, whatever the kid does will be fine. His obvious talents are such that no matter what his rookie season yields offensively, he is going to be a fine player for a long time if he stays healthy. It is going to be fun to watch him play!

    1. Kakko has already played with men.

      He is the 2nd and could have been the number 1 pick in the draft

      Expectations are and should be high on this kid.

      As they should also be but to a lesser extent. Chytil, Andersson , Kravtsov

      I expect at least 20 goals and 50 points from each.

      1. I expect him to do well, but I think putting numbers on it is kind of a stretch. Let’s see him play on the smaller ice and in the rough and tumble of the NHL before we have him scoring 50 points as a rookie. He might, but I would be in no way concerned if he did not. He is 18 years old.

    1. Good question, and even better problem to have as to who gets more playing time!!!!!!!

  6. Andrei Svechnikov (Carolina – 2018): 20-17-37 in 82 games
    Nolan Patrick (Philly – 2017): 17-17-30 in 73 games
    Patrik Laine (Winnipeg – 2016): 36-28-64 in 73 games
    Jack Eichel (Buffalo – 2015): 24-32-56 in 81 games
    Sam Reinhart (Buffalo – 2014): 23-19-42 in 79 games

    First of all this kid has his head on straight, will play hard, and if he gets anything between Svechnikove, or Laine, I’ll jump for joy. Look at Buch, what he did last season, and people think he is going to have a breakout season this year. I could see Kakko out produce Buch within the first, or second year, that’s how good he is. Let’s also be realistic, there is an element of luck associated with the number of goals, and points a player scores. Given an opportunity to play top six, be on the first PP, the sky will be the limit.

    Prediciton, Kakko scores 21 goals, and has another 34 assists. That my friends would be a terrific year for a rookie!!!!!!!!!

  7. I’m thinking of getting a tattoo of Jeff Gordon’s head wearing a huge gold name plate with Steven McDonald’s badge # on it.

    too optimistic?

  8. I don’t have a clue. If he plays on the 1st line and gets 1st PP unit ice time, then he’ll probably score over 65-70+ points. If it’s more like 2nd line, etc., then 50-55. Whatever it is, he’s damn good and we all know it.

  9. Kakko will have hundreds of shots, but he needs to adjust to a full NHL schedule and life in the US. I am not thinking about how many points, as I think they will come, I am thinking about his adjustment to New York. I am hopeful, he and the other young kids are being mentored regarding how to survive in the NHL. This is what I feel JD has to put in place. Get the AHL team straightened out, then ensure that all the kids grow up and learn to be NHL professionals.

    As far as points go, I on seeing him on the 2nd line, going up against other 2nd & 3rd line defenses. No reason he shouldn’t get 14 minutes a game and total 50 points by year end. DQ may decide to bring him along slowly at first, then move him up as he adjusts to the NHL style. I think he needs a good center to work with and I am unsure that Chytil is that center.

    1. Did anyone see this kids dad! He has arms and paws like a grizzly bear… I think his young cub better behave and get going or else papa bear will get upset..


    2. His center this year was holding him back, then he figured out that he actually needed to be a little bit selfish. Then his scoring took off.

      Adjusting to the schedule is a thing, as he faded during the last half of the worlds and they’re going to really have to monitor his blood sugars, but there’s only 12 back to back games.

      55 points in 70-72 games is realistic.

      1. He played 86 games last season (mostly against men), so with a summer of good conditioning he should be able to adjust to the NHL schedule better than most.

        1. Playing a lot of games means nothing when you only play twice a week(except for worlds & U20.)

          Playing 3 in 4 nights is draining on the human body. It’s not a conditioning issue, it’s a recovery issue. It’s diet, it’s sleep, it’s maintenance.

          A big problem my wrestling program had was that guys were overtraining and by the time NCAAs came around they were in so much deficit mode they’d come out flat.

  10. All of the signs point to him being an elite player eventually, but, and this is always the question with rookies, that depends on him having his head on straight. If he comes in with the attitude that he’s the best, and everyone else needs to just step aside, there will be problems. If he comes in willing to work, and to learn the NHL game, things can go smoothly. I’m not saying that it will go one way or the other, because we just won’t know until the team is on the ice. Personally, I think that adding Panarin is a great stress reliever for the team, because now the rookies won’t be expected to perform miracles. He’s going to be the focal point for the offense, and he deserves to be. The K boys (Kappo and Kravstov) can learn from him without having to try and carry the team.

      1. … and Kravs has already been here for months working with the Ranger staff, honing his English skills, etc. I think both these guys have their heads on very straight. They’re self starters and would appear to be low maintenance players.

  11. I know I will get a lot of thumbs down for this comment, but DQ’s system puts a lot of miles on the body. Granted Kakko has a decent sized frame but I am really concerned with his and Kratsov’s ability to stay healthy all season (see Howden).

    1. Injuries happen regardless of the system used and some players react better to MORE work than to less work. In both their cases they seem to have a history free of injury — and in Kravs case at the WJC he just played through his injury. I guess it’s a valid concern with any player, but all indications are these kids are durable and work horses.

  12. We all had high expectations on the coach last season, and what did he give us was an awesome second pick. His line selections and combinations was probably the worst in the league. The Buch could have had 30 goals last season if DQ did not put him with anchors and 4th line players to teach him a lesson.
    After a season of disgrace and poor choices, I don’t mind being the only person worried about the coach. You are only as strong as your weak link. With all the new weapons we have there should not be excuses for not playing well. There is no excuse for putting Fast on a line with Kreider or Buch. His ass should be on the 4th line and PK.

    “I probably sound like a Debbie Downer right now, but I’d rather not be disappointed if he doesn’t put up 90 points in his first season.”

    I feel the same about the second year teaching coach.

  13. Best prospect ever? maybe, but the competition is not Leetch. The competition is Brad Park, also a #2 pick in the draft.

    Hard to compare guys from different eras and at different positions, but we’ll see when Kakko gets here how he measures up against Park. Of course, thanks to Panarin, Kakko won’t get the attention Park did.

    1. I don’t know about that, the kid makes unbelievable passes, the bread man going to be on the receiving end of some.

  14. I want to see what is coming next what happens to who. Really doubting but hopeful they keep Kreider. As much as I want them to keep him–how likely is it that some portion of his next contract will have him being paid, roughly, 7 million as a 13th or 14th forward?

    On another note–what are the odds that Rykov becomes a 4, 5 or 6th defenseman on the big club next year?

  15. Also–Kakko will have better numbers than Svechnikov. I see him as a much better player. Kakko would have been first the year Patrick was drafted and might have taken #1 from Dahlin last year. If not he would push Svechnikov to 3rd.

    1. Svechnikov is not in Kakko’s league…Kakko hasns’t played an NHL game, but my eyes have 50 years of Eye candy experience and I can already see that Kakko is a better player than Svech…..Bold statement…but…….that is what I see…

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