Kaapo Kakko
ESNY Graphic, AP Photo

Following the choice of Jack Hughes, the New York Rangers select Kaapo Kakko second overall in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.

After a month of anticipation, the New York Rangers selected Finnish forward Kaapo Kakko at the 2019 NHL Draft in Vancouver. Kakko is taken second overall by the Blueshirts after the New Jersey Devils selected the top prospect of the draft, Jack Hughes, first overall.

Ranked the second-highest prospect in the Draft, Kakko brings a great mix of size and skill. Standing 6-foot-2 and 194 pounds, Kakko has a high hockey IQ to make smart decisions on offense, along with a great shot, puck handling skills, and physical strength to go with it. The kid is a left-handed right winger, but can play all three forward positions.

Kakko, 18, has shown enough maturity to compete with grown men at the World Championships and in the Finnish Elite League.

The Turku native is coming off an incredible performance at IIHF Worlds. Kakko led Team Finland with six goals in 10 games on their way to a gold medal.

In Finland, Kakko played for TPS of SM-Liiga. In 45 games last season, Kakko posted 22 goals and 16 assists for a total of 38 points. For comparison, fellow Finn Patrik Laine tallied 17 goals and 16 assists for 33 points in 46 games the season before he was taken second overall by the Winnipeg Jets.

Kakko’s 22 goals also set a Liiga single-season record for goals scored by a player under 18. The original record was set by Florida Panthers forward Aleksander Barkov, who scored 21 in the 2012-13 season.

A gold winner at Worlds this year, Kakko is no stranger to international success. Kakko also won gold medals with Team Finland in both the U18 and U20 World Junior Championships. At the 2018 U18 WJC, Kakko put up four goals and six assists for 10 points in seven games.

At the 2019 U20 WJC, Kakko posted six goals and an assist for seven points in 10 games. He even scored the gold medal-winning goal against Team USA at Rogers Place, the same arena he was drafted in on Friday night.

New York Rangers

Most mock drafts had Hughes going first overall with Kakko next. But with Kakko closing the gap between him and Hughes, especially after Worlds, it did make things interesting. TSN analyst Bob McKenzie even said some teams believe Kakko is just as good, if not better than Hughes. However, the Devils decided to go with Hughes, leaving Kakko for the taking for New York.

The Rangers still have some work to do in this draft. The Blueshirts have seven more picks remaining, including two in the second round. The Draft will continue Saturday at 1 p.m. ET (NHL Network, Sportsnet).

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