2019 NHL Draft Profile: Kaapo Kakko

Kaapa Kakko (TPS - Liiga)


Position: RW (Left-handed)
Birthday: 13 Feb 2001
Age on Draft Day: 18
Height/Weight: 6’2”/190
2018-19 Stats: 45 GP, 22G, 16A for TPS / WJC-18 7GP, 4G, 6A / WJC-20 7GP, 2G, 3A / WC 10GP, 6G, 1A

Rankings (as of May 21):
2nd - Future Considerations
1st (for Euro Skaters) - Central Scouting
2nd - Elite Prospects
2nd - Bob McKenzie
2nd - Corey Pronman: Special / Elite Bubble - “Projects to be one of the very best players in the league at their position (Special) / Projects to be top 10-15 percent of the league at their position (Elite).)


If you’ve been paying attention to the hockey world at all recently, you can’t have helped but hear about how great Kaapo Kakko played at the World Championships. For a long stretch of time, Jack Hughes was the consensus number one pick, but recently, Kakko has given the New Jersey Devils a lot to think about as holders of that selection.

In Corey Pronman’s recent prospect ranking update, he said this about Kakko:

Kakko had a fantastic season in Finland, playing significant minutes in the country’s top league and showing flashes of dominance versus men in Liiga and at the World Championships. Kakko has a ton of skill in his game. He’s got the high-end hands to make plays through defenders and the cute dangles that will make highlight reels. Kakko can make the real tough passes and makes a lot of great decisions, but his creativity is what impressed me most.

If you have a subscription, you can read the rest of what he said at The Athletic (paywall).

While what I saw of Kakko at the recent World Championships was certainly impressive, prospects are not my strong suit. So, as I did for the article on Philip Broberg, I reached out to two experts.

I reached out again to Will from the draft site Scouching to ask him for his short take on Kakko:

Ridiculously great puck-handler who thrives on his strength on his feet. At his best along the boards with great agility and can shake off defenders. His play down the middle in open ice feels like he could play centre one day, but as of today, he will jump in immediately and be a great NHL possession winger.

I also reached out again to Dennis Schellenberg, Europe Head Scout for Future Considerations.

What, if anything, makes you think that Kaapo Kakko could be a bust?

Schellenberg: “I’ve thought a long time about this question and really cant come up with anything in Kakko’s game that would have me have second thoughts.”

Why should NJ consider taking him at 1 instead of Hughes?

Schellenberg: “I have been pro Kakko for some months now. Hughes might be the more special player, but I have been deeply impressed with how dominant Kakko has played against men and now also against some top players at the IIHF Worlds.

He has already proven that he can transition his game to higher levels and has been dominant in nearly every game I’ve watched against pro players, while Hughes has shown promising shifts but overall underlined his physical lack and overall punch. On the contrary, Kakko is a freight train, the way he uses his body, skill, goal scoring and playmaking at highest levels is impressive. He has a lot of Auston Matthews in his game.”

The video below is highlights of Kakko from the recent World Championships.

While Hughes has been the consistent name at number one for at least a year, it’s no longer a no-brainer. If Detroit had won the lottery, I’d be thinking long and hard about which very talented player to take. It’s a great problem for New Jersey to have, and it’s hard not to be envious of them. I do have to say that considering JJ’s affinity for puns, the fact that Jack Hughes can be written as “J’accuse!” for headlines is a point in his favor.

Since the chance of Kakko falling to the Red Wings is infinitesimally small: If Detroit had won the lottery, who would you want them to take at #1?

Jack Hughes109
Kaapo Kakko170