For most hockey fans, the name Kaapo Kakko doesn’t ring a bell. Soon it will be a household name.
Over the weekend, the Finnish prospect scored five goals in his first two games of the 2019 IIHF World Championship. He’s only 18-years-old.
Kakko is making his first-ever appearance for Finland’s senior World Championship team and is likely to be one of the top two picks in the 2019 NHL Draft in June.
After tallying twice against Canada in his debut game, Kakko scored a hat trick against Slovakia on Saturday. Kakko is the second youngest player in the tournament, behind only 17-year-old Jack Hughes, the United States’ phenom who is projected to be the number one overall pick. The two young prospects are competing against NHL stars and other countries’ top players, most of whom are in their primes and a decade older.
Kakko should be struggling with the level of play. Instead, he’s dominating.
Saturday, Kakko scored three times against the team hosting the event, Slovakia, and in front of a raucous capacity crowd.
Kakko’s first goal came on a no-look pass from teammate Niko Mikkola. Kakko’s shot made it through traffic to beat the Slovak goalie with ease.
— IIHF (@IIHFHockey) May 11, 2019
Kakko’s second goal of the game saw him deke around Slovak defenseman Martin Fehérváry, the Washington Capitals’ second-round pick in the 2018 draft, and go five-hole on his backhand. Nasty.
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Kakko’s hat trick goal required some impressive physical play. As Ottawa Senators defenseman Christian Jaros attempted to hold Kakko off with one arm, Kakko brushed him aside and tapped the puck home into an empty net.
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) May 11, 2019
During the opening game of the tournament, Kakko helped lead Finland to an upset on juggernaut Team Canada. First, he made Matt Murray, a Stanley Cup-winning goaltender, look silly on a breakaway.
Kakko added an empty-net goal in the third period, after forcing a turnover in the defensive zone by Jonathan Marchessault.
Saturday, after his hatty, Kakko was asked about his building buzz.
“There’s a bit of a Kaapo Mania brewing,” the reporter asked. “What would you like to say to fans?”
“Just take it easy, I won’t score in every game,” Kakko replied with a wry smile.
Kakko’s big weekend follows his legendary performance in the 2019 World Junior Championship where he scored the game-winning, gold-medal winning goal for Finland with 1:26 left in regulation to defeat Jack Hughes and the United States.
He had 5 points in 7 games during the tournament.
With Kakko largely still expected to go second overall in the 2019 NHL Draft to the New York Rangers, the New Jersey Devils, who own the first overall pick, will likely be keeping a close eye on the Finn’s World Championship performance.
Regardless of which team picks him, Kakko will terrorize teams in the Metropolitan Division for the next decade.
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