With the 2019 NHL Draft upon us, it’s time for another look at the top players ranked by NHL Central Scouting. And with Jack Hughes in the tank as the expected number one pick, working down the list to the coveted second spot leads us to one Kaapo Kakko.
Now, the New York Rangers currently possess the second overall pick and it is largely expected – at least according to most mock draft simulations – that Kakko will go to the Blueshirts. Maybe.
The Turku-born winger is broadly seen as the best and most complete winger in this draft and there is some talk that he may even go number one, which could bump Hughes and set all these mock draft orders into a lather.
The 18-year-old is listed at 6’2, 194 pounds and he’s expected to jump right into the National Hockey League after the draft. He’s a bigger player than Hughes and he’s noted for being strong on the puck, which could be a big selling feature for the Devils if they’re considering the Finnish forward.
The book on Kakko is pretty consistent: he does everything well. In fact, it’s hard to find any knock on the guy no matter how deep you check the scouting reports. He’s been ranked number two by nearly every decent scouting body in existence, from the NHL’s own Central Scouting to TSN to ISS Hockey.
Kakko protects the puck well and reads the play well, which means he’s almost never in a rush and seldom gets caught off guard.
Kakko spent this past season with TPS in the Finnish Liiga and that’s important because it means he’s been playing hockey against fully-grown competition. That puts him in the same dominion as Hughes, who also put up monster numbers against older competitors.
This past season, Kakko posted 22 goals and 16 helpers in 45 games. He was 17. When Patrik Laine skated in the same league, he had 17 goals and 16 assists in 46 games.
Kakko is the youngest player in history to have won gold in three IIHF world championship tournaments. That includes the World U18 Championships, the World Junior Championships and the World Championships. He scored the gold-winning goal for Finland in the 2019 World Junior Championships.
Kakko did not participate in the scouting combine in Buffalo, undoubtedly because he was too busy celebrating his World Championship win over Canada. He registered six goals and an assist for the second-highest point totals for an under-18 player in that tournament’s history. According to Kakko’s agent, no NHL club had a problem with him missing the combine.
In some circles, it is indeed a toss-up between Hughes and Kakko for that top spot and it’s not hard to see why. Any team would be lucky to have either player.
(Photo credit: MSG Networks)