Kaapo Kakko has played four seasons with the NY Rangers, and last season was clearly his best. The 2021-2022 season solidified Kakko as a solid play driver who plays well in all three zones, but still had some clear areas to work on. In particular, his stick handling and how he received passes needed work. It’s clear he’s done just that, and while he is far from perfect, his natural progression on the ice has made him a bonafide top-six winger for the Rangers.
Kakko set career highs in all offensive categories last season, putting up 18 goals, 22 assists, and 40 points. He almost doubled his prior highs in all major stats. What’s amazing is he did it with barely any playing time. He, like Filip Chytil and Alexis Lafreniere, are the young future of the Rangers, and they clearly get the job done at 5v5. In theory, if you give Kakko more powerplay time, his counting stats should jump by 20% at a minimum (just based on the PP1 counting stats.
To start the season, Kakko found great chemistry on the top line with Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad. Poor goaltending and bad puck luck doomed that line once Gerard Gallant blew everything up in November, and he never sniffed the top line again. Eventually the Kid Line was reunited and performed well, though were inconsistent. With a new coach, Kakko may find himself back on the top line where he belongs. He is clearly the best RW on the team at the moment.
Kakko is as well rounded as they come, and while we saw metrics like this last season, the offense simply wasn’t there. This year, of course, was different. Not only is Kakko driving play and playing solid defensively, he’s finally starting to rack up points. If last year’s performance is anything to judge by, it means he also saw some poor puck luck –as mentioned in the first month of the season– and could have seen even better scoring stats.
In theory, Kakko should continue to grow into his role as a top six winger. He provides a nice complement to both Kreider and Zibanejad, doing the dirty work while Zibanejad finds space and Kreider parks himself in front of the net. Unlike his other youthful counterparts, Kakko is most ready for all three zone work and to be the work horse winger the Rangers need on the right side.
Kakko is still growing into his game, and he’s getting better and better every season. I know people are upset that he’s not producing big offensive numbers as a #2 overall pick, but without consistent PP1 and top-six time, it was going to be difficult for him to do so. He may not get PP1 time this season, but getting locked into a top-six role should help him see an offensive boost.