Kaapo Kakko is expected to be the second overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft. Before you know it all the top prospects will be in Vancouver and the Finnish winger will be on full display. In the meantime, I found out he doesn’t currently speak English. I had questions for him and through the help of a friend I got some of them answered.
When the Rangers draft him, I don’t think they have any long-range plans of making him a center. He can play that position, but he is much more dangerous on the wing. He’s just better at it.
Asking a player about their immediate goals can get a variety of answers but this prospect has his eyes on the prize.
“My goal is just to play in the NHL this coming season,” he stated.
Kakko is used to playing against older players. This year he had a chance to play in the World Championships. Not until the past few years did draft-eligible players get much of a chance to play in that tournament. He did and now he’s able to cross one item off his bucket list.
“WC gold was a dream come true for me, one of my dreams,” said Kakko, not having to say what is two others may be, Olympic gold and winning the Stanley Cup.
Kakko has the top-line ability but probably won’t play on the top line right away. He’s terrific down low and can take the puck the length of the ice. He has fast hands and his one-timer is elite. At 6-2, 190 pounds he will be a threat to win the Calder next season. Nobody gets there without hard work over the summer and his summer is already planned out and he’s said he will work on his speed and strength.
“I will train with Hannu Rautala. He is a trainer based in Turku, Finland. Many Finnish NHLers train with him during the summer, like Patrik Laine, Mikko Rantanen, Mikko Koivu).”
Five years ago, he was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes and Celiac disease. Not only does this prospect have a chance to be a star player but he can be a role model to other kids around the world with similar circumstances.
“There are no playing restrictions (except diet and food restrictions), never has been, never will be, and I can play just like everyone else without these diseases. I don’t even think about it,” said Kakko.
He also said parents with these same issues can be inspirational to their kids.
The draft is a big moment for every player who hears his name called. Kakko will have some family there to cheer him on.
“My parents and kid brother will be in Vancouver,” he said with pride.
He’s intense. He’s got a sense of humor. He’s going to be special.