Players

Can Kaapo Kakko handle second line duties next season?

With Jesper Fast with Carolina, the second line RW spot appears to be Kaapo Kakko’s to lose. Kakko was one of the Blueshirts’ stronger skaters in their August hockey cameo. However Kakko did struggle for most of his rookie season. It appears to be a tale of two players. Which one will the Rangers get next season?

Fatigue And Adjustments

Make no mistake, a part of Kakko’s struggles last year were due to fatigue. He played almost two full years without a break. The four months off from March to July gave him that extra boost, and it showed in the short playoff stint.

However it did go beyond just fatigue. Kakko had to adjust to the new ice, which isn’t just a mental adjustment. He had to adjust how he was receiving the puck. Throughout most of last season, Kakko was receiving the puck too close to his body and with his back to the net. This worked in Liiga with the bigger ice surface, since it he had more time to read the play.

The NHL is a faster league. The defense was all over him and he didn’t have time to make a play. We saw that begin to change against Carolina. The narrative was Kakko was “more decisive.” In actuality, he was receiving the puck with his arms outstretched, a far better position to make a quicker read and decision. It was a functional change to his game.

It’s only Kakko’s second season, so it’s safe to assume the changes made to his game will stick. However we should expect Kakko to sometimes dip into old habits. The question is: How often?

The big change is going to be building on receiving the puck further away from his body. Kakko likes to accept a pass and then circle to the high slot. Ideally, he does this in one motion, skating into the pass and cutting to the slot in one motion.

The Numbers

The full season numbers for Kakko are rough. Very rough.

This is very not good. However as noted above, there were a few factors here. The slight changes to his game and some actual rest should help his performance next season. Being separated from Brett Howden should help too, but that’s a minor piece.

Kakko has too much talent to repeat his poor rookie season performance. Getting him legitimate talent on his line should help him get more comfortable in the NHL. The numbers don’t show it yet, but with those few adjustments, Kaapo Kakko should be ok on the second line.

Should be.

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  • In hindsight, Kakko should have spent last year in Finland! The talent is definitely there but he was only 18 years old, in a foreign country, playing on a far smaller ice surface.
    I don’t think it’s a stretch to project that he will finish next season in the 50-60 point range, which will be dependent on how he is used and who his line mates are! Steady progression

    • How does staying home in Finland and continuing to play on large ice help him acclimate to playing in a foreign country on smaller ice though?

      • I agree totally. Thier is more than one aclimation for Kappo Kacco. The smaller ring is huge due to seasoned defensemen cutting off angles not evident in the larger rinks. The second is a culture change of a 18yr old kid to the bright lights of Broadway. Statistics aside, he looked and played so much better after the layoff and in the playoffs. He is still growing and has yet to fill out as a young man yet. He is also very competitive and will feed off of LaFreniere. He likes to be the fair haired boy! The winner will be the NYR!

    • Most rinks in Finland (besides his own rink, which was Olympic) are only 6’ wider rather than 12’.

      The lack of dry land training time hurt him.

  • I think he can. Hope he has a season like svechnikov from the hurricanes. Especially if he is playing with better line mates.

  • The Fins actually play on rinks smaller than the the rest of Europe, so I’m not sure how much of an effect that really is, but your larger point stands. He’s got to learn to play at a quicker pace.

  • This kid is going to be just fine. No need to worry. As a Ranger fan can’t help to be positive for the future. Think about what the Rangers are going to look like in a couple of years when these kids grow into their bodies – Rangers are going to have a huge lineup with top line talent. Lafrenière Kravtsov Chytl Kakko Gauthier all 21 and under all 6 feet+ and at full growth will be 200 pounds plus. Add in Miller Robertson and the new draft picks and wow size speed grit. Back to Kakko this year he will be a beast wouldn’t surprise me to see that he has gained 5-10 pounds of muscle when the NHL resumes.

  • I expect that Kappo with be on the second line, but nothing is certain until we see what happens in camp. Overall, he will be quite a good player. I might have wanted to see him get some AHL time to start off last season, but, the improvement seen when the playoffs began seem to indicate that he grew more confident as time went on and he got some rest. The fatigue factor for new players is often overlooked. I think he will be fine.

  • Throw him into the deep water … they should have signed Koivu though, he could have helped the guy swim better.

  • Nothing but upside.

    Did anyone see the size of this kids father at the draft…

    Kakko is going to become a very powerful nhler

  • if kakko vs the canes esp in game one is any indication , he should get there. its all about him finding where his game fits into the nhl, which is dif than in europe. let me rephrase that .. shooting the puck! that is his game. we have enough playmakers to get it to him.

  • Great observations, thanks.

    IMO, as important as this question is, I think whether Flip can be the 2C is the bigger one.

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