Rangers Report Cards: Grading the Right-Wingers

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NEW YORK, NY – MARCH 18: Kaapo Kakko #24 of the New York Rangers during the game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on March 18, 2023 at Madison Square Garden in New York, New York. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY – MARCH 18: Kaapo Kakko #24 of the New York Rangers during the game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on March 18, 2023 at Madison Square Garden in New York, New York. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Getty Images) /

Rangers Report Cards: Kaapo Kakko: B (B)

Is it the last year we’ll be referring to the trio of Alexis Lafreniere (21), Filip Chytil(23), and Kaapo Kakko(22) as the “Kid line”? It’s time for them to make their mark in the NHL.

It’s been widely documented that a significant role in the firing of head coach Gerard Gallant was the player’s input, with Kakko one of them expressing his displeasure. He felt Gallant needed to give a proper sense of direction or be hard enough on them. New bench boss Peter Laviolette is known for his emphasis on toughness and structure. Now there are no more excuses.

Kakko’s season was like riding a rollercoaster through a Finnish winter – full of ups and downs! At the start, it seemed like he was as lost as a snowflake in a blizzard, and whispers of scratching him floated around like snowflakes in the wind. Yet, no scratch happened, and Kakko slyly pulled off a solid season.

He managed to stick it out for all 82 games and racked up 18 goals and 40 points. It’s a baby step of an improvement, but everyone is crossing their fingers that Kakko’s got more moves up his sleeve for his NHL journey. The hope is that his breakthrough year is upon us.

Playoffs? Oh, Kakko dipped his toe in there too. He had one goal and two points in seven games. He was like the secret weapon in the “kid line,” adding some oomph to their offensive zone plays. And speaking of Oomph, Kakko’s turned into a tank on ice – it’s like opponents need a bulldozer to get the puck off him.

Let’s discuss that third line because these kids will make or break the upcoming season.
The right-wing situation isn’t set in stone, and Kakko could become the top six hero. If someone’s injured or the team’s feeling a little off-kilter, Kakko’s got to shine in the spotlight and show he’s got that top-six magic in his pocket.

Toward the end of the season, Kakko was
collecting more responsibility, like snowflakes on a winter coat. It could be because the kid line is strong, or he impressed Gallant enough to earn extra ice time. He’s on the right track, and the goal is to keep building that momentum for next season. Let’s see where this snowball of success takes him!