The ping pong balls went the Rangers' way Tuesday night, and by getting the No. 2 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, they not only end up with their highest ever selection in the draft, but they're guaranteed to get a game-changing prospect for their rebuild.
They're likely to end up with Finnish right wing Kaapo Kakko, assuming the Devils select American standout Jack Hughes at No. 1. Those two players are the top tier of this upcoming draft class, with the consensus being that Kakko has the ability to be a star in the NHL.
Get to know the player who might accelerate the Rangers' path toward contention:
As a 17-year-old, Kakko scored 22 goals for TPS Turku in the Finnish Liiga, setting a new Liiga record for most goals scored in a season by a U-18 player. Aleksander Barkov had 21 goals six years ago, but he did that in 51 games. Kakko scored his 22 in 45 games, while adding 16 assists.
Skill and physicality
The 6-2, 194-pound Kakko's blend of high-end skill and being effectively physical will allow him to transition smoothly into the NHL. And since he's still a teenager, he'll continue to fill out and become stronger.
Here is what Corey Pronman, The Athletic's NHL prospects writer, wrote this week about Kakko:
"I've seen highly skilled players like Kakko before. What I don't typically see are 17-year-old forwards with his skill who can win pucks from grown men consistently."
Regarding Kakko's skill level, Pronman says, "Kakko's ability to make highly skilled plays with the puck is high-end, if not elite."
Steve Kournianos of The Draft Analyst writes of Kakko, "Multi-tooled winger with size and coordination who incorporates his impressive puck skills with a desirable physical package that consistently exhausts opponents."
Big game performer
Kakko has thrived on the big stage. He scored the winning goal with 1:26 left for Finland in the gold-medal game of this year's World Junior Championship against Team USA. It did come off a scramble in front, but Kakko has performed well in international play, notching five points in seven games at the World Juniors after recording 10 points in seven games at the 2018 U-18 World Championship. And next month he will represent Finland at the senior World Championship.
Fit with Rangers
His talent would be a fit with any team, but for a Rangers organization which has acquired a number of intriguing young players through trades and the draft the last couple of years, Kakko could be that transcendent player they can build around. And his style of play seems to fit quite well for what David Quinn is looking for. According to the New York Post, Quinn sent GM Jeff Gorton multiple text messages after the Rangers landed the No. 2 pick.