Kaapo Kakko shows off skills in Finland overtime loss to USA


Earlier today in Slovakia, Team USA defeated Finland 3-2 in overtime at the IIHF World Championships.

Dylan Larkin got the winner with a nice snipe from the right circle during three-on-three. He took full advantage of a missed interference call on linemate Clayton Keller, who knocked down a Finland defenseman at the blueline.

Even though the Americans pulled out the win to earn two points in Group play, most of the discussion centered around Kaapo Kakko. The hot teenage prospect continues to demonstrate why so many experts, scouts and fans are drooling over him.

He might not have registered a point unlike the five goals he had in the first two games (both wins). But 1B had a overtime shift that was flat out dominant. None of the three USA players could get the puck from him. He was so strong on his skates that he created a couple of dangerous scoring chances off a hard forecheck around the net.

It’s astonishing to watch Kakko use his size, strength and speed at only 18 against grown men. Sure. There was some hype surrounding the match with 1A Jack Hughes playing in a lesser role due to USA’s depth. But they only faced each other once during a shift. It was a solid battle even if the bigger player protected the puck.

Wearing number 24, Kakko led Finland with six shots in a team high 18:46. He was on the ice for a goal in front that got the game even. Suomi rallied from an early two goal deficit to tie it up. He takes up a lot of space.

This is the exact type of winger the Rangers need. The growing question is will the Devils be convinced by Kakko’s strong showing to select him first over Hughes. He received only 9:24 while playing mostly with Frank Vatrano, Luke Glendening and Derek Ryan.

Playing a lesser role has to be hard for the American teenager. But it’s due to USA being top heavy with Jack Eichel, Patrick Kane, Johnny Gaudreau, Chris Kreider and Alex DeBrincat having significant roles. Ditto for Larkin, Keller and James van Riemsdyk.

Ranger defenseman Brady Skjei scored the game’s first goal and was named USA’s Star of the Game. He logged 21:48 overall. That trailed only Ryan Suter and Noah Hanifin.

Rangers D prospect Adam Fox received 11:50 with one shot on a crowded D corps that also features Quinn Hughes. The older brother picked up an assist on Larkin’s overtime winner. He has two helpers so far. Fox has a power play point thus far.

USA next takes on Great Britain Wednesday. As for Finland, they have off until Thursday when they face Denmark. So, the Kakko Kraze can relax for the next 48 hours. That’s a good thing.

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of New York administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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