Kaapo Kakko went No. 2 in the 2019 NHL Draft and wears No. 24 on his back, but 18 is the number the Rangers and their delirious fan base should never forget.
That is his age.
By every account and through every eye test, the Blueshirts have themselves a special young man and an especially promising prospect in Kakko, the opposite of a booby prize following the Devils’ first-overall selection of Jack Hughes on Friday night in Vancouver.
The lottery victory that boosted the Rangers to their highest draft position in 53 years, since Brad Park went second-overall in 1966, energized everyone associated with the franchise. So did Kakko’s bravura performance for gold medalist Finland in the World Championships. So did the deals for righty defensemen Jacob Trouba and Adam Fox. The Rangers are on to Phase Two of their reconstruction process.
But just as it is essential for the coaching staff to work on Kakko’s development, it is critical for management not to get too far over its skis as it presents the teenager, who won’t turn 19 until Feb. 13, to New York. It is critical for the Blueshirts to manage expectations for Kakko out of the gate, the way they did not for seventh-overall Lias Andersson two years ago.