Adam Fox and Ryan Lindgren both exceeded expectations of forming a defensive rookie pair that could take half a decade. Filip Chytil is building a pretty good second season. Igor Shesterkin survived all the hype through his first month in the NHL.
There is no question, however, that everyone would feel much better about Rangers' reconstruction if Kaapo Kakko even had a freshman season facsimile that almost everyone in the hockey universe would expect after the Finn passed the second overall selection in June.
This is the reason why not everything was lost due to an otherwise disappointing Friday night in the garden, in which the Sabers' blues shirts were revised, thought through and scored 3: 2 in the lower third.
Because after being downgraded to fourth row and having only 7:32 ice in the first two periods, Kakko not only played conscientiously upwards, but also got 3:49 ice over the last 9:21 of the game and it was one of six by coach David Quinn after Alexandar Georgiev was pulled off the net.
"I thought he had a good night. He played with a lot of energy, had an advantage for his game, played with a little self-confidence, ”said Quinn, who broke number 24 with Ryan Strome and Jesper Fast into a remix unit before using it with the big boys as the blustery blues shirts tried to win from 3-0, then 3: 1, then 3: 2. "I liked his approach."
Kakko has played in the last 12 games with one point, one assist, one goal and eight assists in 32 competitions since November 20 and seven goals and 10 assists for 17 points in 48 games of the season. It is not what he expected. It is not what you expect. However, everyone seems to have overlooked how unusual it is for an 18-year-old to play a role in the NHL. Everyone seemed a bit carried away because Kakko dominated older professionals at the big ice world championships.
"He is 18 years old. When I was 18 I could hardly play college hockey and he is one of the top nine in the NHL," said Chris Kreider, who made his NHL debut in the playoffs in 2012 at the age of 20 gave to The Post. "He is a great boy, he is attentive, he works hard. He is currently learning and I am very impressed with how he deals with it.
"He'll be better off if he went through that. It'll only benefit him."
This was one in which the Rangers were reversed by a passive, neutral opponent that clogged the zone, just as they were reversed by the Blue Jackets in a 2-1 loss to Garden on January 17th. The blueshirts were impatient, tried too much fancy stuff and fell three goals until they were finally on the board with only 2:53.
But even when the team's tent athletes struggled, Kreider called himself "one of the biggest culprits" and Quinn said: "Our top players were nowhere near where we need them." – Kakko was energetic and resourceful. The teenager raced past and turned Jake McCabe into a power move before being rejected by a Carter Hutton pad. In the second phase there were 55 seconds left.
In the third half, he prevailed with a simple but impressive game and drew the penalty with which the Rangers played their six-on-four game at 6:02 p.m. before he made a template for Kreider's Powerplay goal at 18 picked up: 20.
"He faces a different challenge every night, different systems, experienced players, and that means Kaapo has to find something new every night," said Kreider. “Small ice rink and bigger players competing against him.
"It's hard. He's 18 years old. Ninety-nine percent of the world's 18-year-old ice hockey players couldn't do it. He does it."
Of course, Kakko never wanted to hear how difficult this is for an 18-year-old, let alone an 18-year-old European who lives in an unknown country and speaks a language that is not familiar to the locals. Since spending the winter break in Finland, he seems a bit refreshed.
"I know that he puts a lot of pressure on himself. Many of our young people do it. I did. And I think that's good, ”said Kreider. “He comes to the ice rink every day and expects a lot from himself. That is what you want. He comes to learn, he comes to work.
"His skills are crazy. He learns. He is doing better. I wouldn't worry about him at all. "
So, a bad small picture night for the Rangers, but a good big picture night for Kakko. Friday wasn't entirely lost.