Kaapo Kakko is currently playing the best hockey of his New York Ranger career. He has 18 points in 38 games this season and 9 points in his last eleven games played. The last games against Florida were the best game he has played this season and he played with two great players. Having Kakko on the line with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider is one move that should have happened a long time ago and now that it has, there is no reason to break this lineup.
Earlier this season, the line of Kreider, Zibanejad, and Kakko was the best line the Rangers had for many games. After the Rangers began to lose some games, they broke up the line and they had not played together until they were put back together against Tampa Bay. While they did play well, it was the game against the Panthers where they stood out. Zibanejad had two goals, Kreider a goal and an assist, and Kakko with two assists. They were buzzing all game and helped carry the Rangers to the win.
When the line was broken up earlier this season, Kakko told the media he was not happy that it was and was confused by the reasoning. He said he played his best hockey with Kreider and Zibanejad. Now that they are back together, Kakko is playing with the most confidence that we have seen since he became a New York Ranger. He is making plays with the puck down low, winning the battles, and setting up his teammates with great chances to score. When a player like Kakko gets to play with top players, it really helps to elevate his game.
This should be a message to Gerard Gallant on how to deploy the young players on the Rangers. Kakko is thriving on the top line and if he could ever get Alexis Lafreniere to get comfortable playing on the right side, he too could have the same success. Lafreniere spent time playing on the right wing with Vincent Trocheck and Artemi Panarin and this line had success. They too were broken up too early on and they should be put back together to see if Lafreniere can play with top players the same way Kakko can.
Kakko has proved he can play with the top stars of the team and he has earned this spot. The only reason he should be taken off the line is if he gets injured. Otherwise, there is no reason to separate him from Kreider and Zibanejad. They have looked great when playing together and they could get even better over time if they can build greater chemistry together. This is the top line the Rangers have needed this season and they have found it.