Why Alexis Lafrenière and Kaapo Kakko don’t fit in the Rangers top 6

NY Rangers (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
NY Rangers (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) /
facebooktwitterreddit
Prev
4 of 4
Next
ELMONT, NEW YORK – NOVEMBER 24: Kaapo Kakko #24 of the New York Rangers skates against the New York Islanders at the UBS Arena on November 24, 2021 in Elmont, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
ELMONT, NEW YORK – NOVEMBER 24: Kaapo Kakko #24 of the New York Rangers skates against the New York Islanders at the UBS Arena on November 24, 2021 in Elmont, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Kaapo Kakko had a similar situation in his first two seasons. His ascension to top six right wing was blocked by Pavel Buchnevich and Jesper Fast. Though now, with Fast playing for the Carolina Hurricanes and Buchnevich playing with the St. Louis Blues, Kakko no longer has anyone blocking him on the right wing depth chart. The issues he now faces are his health and style of play.

Distance makes the heart grow fonder

Kakko has been unfortunate with injuries and illness and has missed the last 30 games. Overall, he has missed 42 games over his three seasons in the NHL, more than 21% of the Rangers games during that span. When he returns however, he may not be best suited to play in the top six. He has proven to be an effective 200 foot player who drives offense. Even with having missed so much of the season, he is still third best on the team with a 49.89% Corsi rating among Rangers forwards with 37 or more games played.

The question though with Kakko is not his skill level, but his style of play. Having grown in strength his board work and puck protection are exceptional, but the are also detrimental to the Rangers top six as currently constructed. To be effective, Kakko needs the puck, but so do Zibenejad and Panarin, the play drivers of their lines. wWould placing him in the top six reduce the effectiveness of the Rangers top play drivers and thus their lines as a whole? Would Kakko be able to shift his game from one of puck possession to being more of a finisher without reducing his overall effectiveness?

It would be better suited for the here and now, that when he returns to the lineup, Kakko join Lafrenière on the third line. His three zone game along with his play driving and puck possession game would immediately make the team more well rounded. This should be seen as a positive player assignment rather than holding onto the idea that the player should be shoehorned into a position they are not suited for.

That said, It is important that the message be given and received as such. Being the players coach that he is Gallant’s message has so far been heard where David Quinn’s was lost. This deployment should not be seen as a demotion. but as the coach placing his players, especially his young ones, in a place where they and the team are best suited to succeed.

light. More. Stifling defense in a 3-1 win