Rangers’ Kaapo Kakko wants more opportunities in 2023-24 season

Kaapo Kakko wants more ice-time with Rangers
New York Rangers’ Kaapo Kakko (24) looks for the puck after a collision with Pittsburgh Penguins’ Jake Guentzel (59) during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
AP Photos

TARRYTOWN — It’s hard to argue that the New York Rangers’ Kid Line deserves more opportunities after the season they put forth this past year. 

Alexis Lafreniere, Filip Chytil, and Kaapo Kakko all put up career-highs in points, assists, and goals. But even with the success the young line produced throughout the season, play-time has been hard to come by with current stars like Mika Zibanejad, Artemi Panarin, and Chris Kreider on the roster. 

Kakko is looking to see that change going into next season following a disappointing end to the 2023 playoffs for the Rangers. 

“Just keep doing those same things, maybe get some powerplay time, also play more – that’s the next step. I think there were some good things I did in the O-zone…keep playing like that to play more next season. That’s the goal,” the former second-overall pick said during locker-room cleanout on Wednesday. 

A big reason for Kakko’s change in the 2022-23 season had been the fact that the Finnish-born player was healthy for the first time in his career. Kakko played in all 82 games this past season and finished eighth on the team in scoring.

Receiving more play-time is expected to be the next step for one of the Rangers’ core young pieces. Before the trade deadline brought in several veteran right-wingers, the 22-year-old had been bumping around the top line with Zibanejad, as well as the second line with Vincent Trocheck. His overall ability to remain aggressive and be a thorn in the opponent’s side is just one of several things that made him happy about last season. 

“Especially last year I didn’t play all the games. This year I did. It’s always good when you’re healthy and can play so that’s the first thing. I played maybe my best season over here so happy about that as well,” Kakko explained. 

With his improved play, more minutes are expected to be had, and not just for him. Following their second season together, the Rangers will have to decide if keeping their Kid Line together is worth it for another season. 

For Kakko, his goals of getting more play-time and opportunities on the man advantage aren’t new for young players. And it’ll need to be up to the coaching staff and front office to determine if each of the kids is ready for a promotion. 

“I think all the guys try to be top six. I like our line, me, Fil, and Laffy. That’s a good line through the playoffs,” Kakko concluded. 

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