There’s still a lot of hockey to be played this season, but today we take a look at one of, if not the most talented wingers of the 2019 NHL Draft class.
You may not be as familiar with the name Kaapo Kakko right now because this year’s draft is all about Floridian centre Jack Hughes, but there’s no doubt that you’re going to be hearing his name for a long time.
Born: February 13, 2001
Weight: 181 lbs.
Position: Right Wing
Team: TPS Turku (Liiga)
Kakko is an extremely intelligent playmaker with incredible vision and high-end puck-protection skills. His offensive abilities are undeniable. He has soft hands and a great shot with a quick release, but the best aspect of his game is definitely his stick-handling ability.
He is brilliantly able to handle the puck in very tight areas and uses his body to protect it from defenders. The powerful forward really opened up scouts’ eyes at the Under-18 World Championship back in April in Russia, playing on a line with 2018 prospects Jesperi Kotkaniemi (drafted third overall by the Montreal Canadiens) and Niklas Nordgren (selected 74th overall by the Chicago Blackhawks). Even if he was one of the youngest players, he looked dominant in every area and helped lead his team to a gold medal.
He is a smooth skater with a powerful stride that helps him to reach top speed even on the rush. While there’s still room for improvement defensively, Kakko has nearly all the tools to become a dominant player at a higher level sooner rather than later. He has quick hands and a powerful shot, and he’s already much stronger than most players his age.
If Jack Hughes is the early consensus first overall pick in 2019, the Finnish isn’t far behind, and could even be in the conversation for the call at #1 as the months pass.
If he keeps up his rhythm of 0.71 points per game, he’ll have one of the best U18 season in Liiga history, surpassing Patrik Laine’s 33 points in 46 games in 2016 with the Tappara Tempere. He has also contributed to 26.3% of his team’s goals scored despite being the youngest (17 years and 259 days) on a team with an average age of 25.4.
‘’He is versatile, smart, and skilled, making him the rare winger who can do it all in every facet of the game. I haven’t seen a young player look so strong from the outset of a Liiga season since Aleksander Barkov exploded on the scene with Tappara.’’ – Craig Button, TSN Director of Scouting
- Hockey IQ
Areas in need of improvement
- Defensive game
There’s a lot of 2018 second overall pick Andrei Svechnikov in Kaapo Kakko. Both understand the game in a spectacular way, are excellent skaters, and possess high offensive instincts. Even though he is listed as a right-winger, Kakko is a versatile player — maybe the most dynamic of his draft class — able to play all three positions and be successful.
I see him being in the NHL as soon as next year. It’s still early, but he could be a Calder nominee in 2019-20.
The 2019 draft will be head on June 21-22 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, and it’s sure shaping up to be a surprising one.
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