This year has been a year of improvement for a lot of the young Rangers that didn’t find their stride under the previous regime. Kaapo Kakko is one of those players who has improved in many different areas but the one area that has seen the least amount of improvement is the most important area for Kakko – goals. The Young Fin was drafted 2nd overall in 2019 with the hope that he’d become the Blueshirts next scoring phenomen and that has just yet to materialize.
While it’s fair to say there’s been numerous hurdles for Kakko to overcome in his short NHL career like not having the trust of his former coaches to earn top six minutes or powerplay time. Or whether it’s been battling through two covid-19 seasons where rhythm has been disrupted constantly.
This year has been different for Kakko though because Gerard Gallant has shown he believes in his young winger by giving him time on the top line with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider. While the Rangers top line has been the best and most consistent line for the Rangers it hasn’t been due Kakko’s offensive numbers. Through 32 games so far this season Kakko has only found the back of the net 5 times and through 146 career NHL games he’s only tallied 24 goals.
Those aren’t exactly the kinds of numbers you expect when you draft someone 2nd overall. When you’re taken that high you’re supposed to be a franchise altering kind of talent, and while he may still develop into that, we haven’t exactly seen that potential yet from Kakko and that’s something to start worrying about.
Even though the goals haven’t been there yet, Kakko has shown that he is extremely responsible defensively and can be quite creative offensively when playing with enough confidence. The next key for Kakko’s development will be putting a stretch of quality games together where he’s playing confidently.
One of the biggest keys to unlock Kakko’s potential will be putting him on a line with a legitimate playmaker. Kakko is at his best when he doesn’t have to look to create for himself and is just able to finish off chances. While playing a line with Zibanejad and Kreider is good for his confidence, it doesn’t fit what he does best. Zibanejad is a shoot first type of center and Kreider is the net front presence, that line needs a RW who can make plays to get them the puck in scoring chances.
When the team is fully healthy placing Kakko on the RW of Panarin and Strome could be huge in unlocking Kakko’s goal scoring ability. Panarin is one of the top playmakers in the league and his ability to open ice for his linemates has come in clutch for Strome and could do the same for Kakko.
It’s still way too early to label the former 2nd overall pick a bust but the time has come to start worrying a bit about his lack of goal production thus far.Embed from Getty Images