More Kaapo Kakko trade rumors

We’ve hit the end of the 2023 NY Rangers Top 25 Under 25. With 4 of the top-10 players from last year’s list no longer eligible for this list, we saw a pretty big shakeup in the top-10 this year. It seemed few had issues with numbers 10-6, but I’m sure the order of the top-5 will irk a few. Reminder, Adam Fox is no longer eligible for this list.

The ground rules for this list are simple. To qualify, a player must be under 25 years old. It doesn’t matter if this player is in the NHL, AHL, or in any of the leagues around the world. If they are Ranger property and under 25, they were considered.

As a reminder, my personal rankings take into account kids playing in men’s leagues, so you may see a player or two on here that may not have a sexy stat line, but is a kid playing against grown men. That matters a lot, especially if they hold their own. The reverse is true as well, as big stat lines as an overager in the CHL or getting cut from Hartford last year negatively impacts rankings as well.

Aside: I whiffed on Maxim Barbashev, he should be in the 20-16 range. Insert him wherever you like and remove Matt Rempe from the honorable mentions.

Aged Out (2): Adam Fox, Ryan Lindgren
No longer with the Rangers (5): Nils Lundkvist, Vitali Kravtsov, Hunter Skinner, Lauri Pajuniemi, Jayden Grubbe
2023 Rankings: Honorable mentions, 25-21, 20-16, 15-11, 10-6
2022 Rankings: Honorable mentions, 25-21, 20-16, 15-11, 10-6, 5-1

5. Gabriel Perreault – Forward, 2023 1st round pick (LY: NR)

The Rangers got an absolute steal when Gabriel Perreault fell to them at #23 in this year’s draft. Perreault was a top-10 talent in the draft and he fell very far. From Chris Peters of FloHockey:

Perhaps one of the craftiest playmakers in this draft, Perreault thinks the game at an elite level. His ability to anticipate and read plays, as well as pick apart opposing defenses is a big separator for him. He scored 132 points at the NTDP this season, 15 more points than the previous record-holder for a single season, Auston Matthews.

Perreault’s biggest strength is the way he thinks the game because his skating is average and he doesn’t have tremendous size. He just always seems to make the right play, doesn’t get caught doing too much and seems to understand his limitations and how to mask those with creative plays with the puck on his stick.

Perreault has a long way to go, likely 3 years minimum. But he’s as high ceiling as they come. Expect him to be in the top-5 on this list for years to come.

4. Alexis Lafreniere – Forward, 2020 1st round pick (LY: 2)

It’s been a disappointing start to Alexis Lafreniere’s career. Some of his own doing, some outside of his control. Where Lafreneire has excelled is at even strength, and he’s one of the Rangers leading goal scorers at even strength. He would have a much nicer scoring line if he were given any significant time with the man advantage. The fact we celebrated his first PPG last season, his third season, isn’t on him.

His production is nice in limited ice time, but there are legitimate concerns about his actual development. Lafreniere simply hasn’t made the expected strides with his play away from the puck and with his skating. Part of that is on the Rangers and the lack of an actual skills coach, and part of that is on Lafreniere with rumored dedication concerns.

Still, Lafreniere is supremely skilled. He’s producing middle-six numbers without significant ice time and possibly without putting in the desired/expected effort off the ice. While that effort is a rumor and unconfirmed, we’ve heard it from enough people that at least part of it is likely true.

Lafreniere is on his third coach, and possibly his final coach as a NY Ranger should things not work out. Again, he’s a fantastic talent. He just needs to put it all together. If he does, he will be back in the top-3 next year.

3. Filip Chytil – Center, 2017 1st round pick (LY: 10)

What a year it was for Filip Chytil. In his final year on this list (he will be 25 for next year’s list), he jumps to the top-3 after a career year in 2022-2023. His 22-23-45 line were all career highs, and like Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko, he did it without significant powerplay time. This 5-on-4 time is mentioned a lot because this is usually how some of these kids are able to put up the points expected of first round picks.

Chytil is probably the most underrated center on the Rangers, mostly because he stinks at faceoffs. That’s a skill he can improve upon, and it’s such a minor part of his overall game that we can overlook it. Chytil is great in all three zones, a play driver on offense, defensively sound, and a much better skater than people realize.

It’s expected that Chytil will fight for the 2C role under Peter Laviolette at even strength. He should supplant Vincent Trocheck on the powerplay this year.

2. K’Andre Miller – Defense, 2018 1st round pick (LY: 3)

K’Andre Miller had a wonderful start to the season before struggling in late February/March. Miller got a lot of unnecessary hate for his entire season based on a rough 1-2 months. It’s funny how doubling his career high in points (43) gets overlooked. His 9 goals were a career high, and his 34 assists were almost triple his prior high. For a kid who was just converted to defense, that’s fantastic.

Miller is already the 1LD on the roster, no disrespect to Ryan Lindgren. Miller is again solid in all three zones, but adds that puck moving and scoring aspect that Lindgren doesn’t have, and he does this without sacrificing his overall defensive play. There’s a strong case that he should be paired with Adam Fox next season, hopefully unlocking Jacob Trouba on the second pair with Lindgren.

This kid is the real deal.

1. Kaapo Kakko – RW, 2019 1st round pick (LY: 4)

What? Kaapo Kakko at number 1? Dave, are you ok?

Yes. I am fine. Kaapo Kakko is perhaps the most underrated kid in the Rangers organization, which is amazing when you consider he’s a top-six forward. He almost doubled his offensive production, setting new career highs with goals (18), assists (22), and points (40), shattering his prior highs of 10-13-23.

It’s safe to assume Kakko would have had even better numbers had Gerard Gallant not blown up the lines in November, as he was really clicking with Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad. It’s expected he will get a long look there to start the season. Kakko did a lot of the dirty work for that line, and is a strong puck possession player that is excellent in all three zones. He fits well on that line.

Assuming Peter Laviolette’s structure has the desired impact, and assuming a bit more balance on the powerplay, Kakko should thrive and show why he was such a hyped #2 overall pick in 2019.


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