CHELYABINSK, RUSSIA - APRIL 19: Finland's Kaapo Kakko #33 plays the puck while while Slovakia's Nicolas Ferenyi #11 looks on during preliminary round action at the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship. (Photo by Andrea Cardin/HHOF-IIHF Images)

Kaapo Kakko has clearly separated himself from the other 2019 draft eligible Finnish prospects in the last two seasons. The 6-2” forward is having an excellent season with TPS in the Liiga and he also had a strong World Juniors performance.

Ranked second in our 2019 midterm NHL Draft rankings, Kakko is a an extremely skilled player with creativity. His puck skills and vision already stand out significantly against men. Moreover, Kakko is a very smart player who reads the game well and makes good decisions with the puck.

He has been playing mainly on the wing this season, however he has also spent some time at center. Personally, I think he could eventually be a center in the NHL due to his smarts and defensive reliability. Kakko projects as a first-line player in the NHL, one who will be an impact player for years to come. He looks close to being NHL ready and since he is already physically mature, he probably won't need a long adjustment period when he leaves for North America.

Kaapo Kakko Eligible 2019 Draft
Position: RW, Shoots L H/W: 6-2", 190 lbs
Stats to date (GP-G-A-PTS-PIMS) TPS, Liiga (35-16-13-29-4)
  Finland U20, WJC (7-2-3-5-0)
CHELYABINSK, RUSSIA - APRIL 19: Finland's Kaapo Kakko #33 plays the puck while while Slovakia's Nicolas Ferenyi #11 looks on during preliminary round action at the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship. (Photo by Andrea Cardin/HHOF-IIHF Images)

CHELYABINSK, RUSSIA - APRIL 19: Finland's Kaapo Kakko #33 plays the puck while while Slovakia's Nicolas Ferenyi #11 looks on during preliminary round action at the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship. (Photo by Andrea Cardin/HHOF-IIHF Images)

Skating: Kakko is a strong skater with good mechanics and mobility. Both his footwork and agility are assets. He has good quickness in his first few strides and can accelerate quickly from a standstill position. He  generates speed through fast and powerful crossovers. He possesses superb edge work and he can make plays at full speed. Grade: 60

Shot: He has a quick wrist shot that can beat goalies cleanly. He can shoot the puck with good power and accuracy. He is dangerous around the net and can score from close range. He plays with an unusually short stick which doesn't benefit his shooting. On a more positive note, he has started to shoot the puck more in the Liiga as the season has progressed. A constant scoring threat in the offensive zone, Kakko has the ability and potential to be a good goal-scorer in the NHL. Grade: 60

Skills: Kakko really shines when having the puck on his stick. His stickhandling is excellent, he has the ability to deke multiple opponents and make plays in traffic and tight spaces. He can be very creative with the puck and tough to contain in one-on-one situations. Not only does he have good passing skills, he is also adept at receiving difficult passes off his skates. Defensively, he uses his stick well to put pressure and take away time from opponents. Grade: 70

Smarts: A highly intelligent player, he understands the game on both sides of the puck. He constantly puts himself in a good position to make plays because he reads and anticipates the game so well. He gives smart passes and he seldom gets too complicated with the puck. He is smart and poised in possession. His positioning is very good, especially in the offensive zone where he makes himself available for passes. He also supports his teammates effectively. Overall, his attention to detail is impressive, especially for a player of his age. Grade: 70

Physicality: Kakko is physically strong for his age and tough to play against. He uses his size to his advantage and wins a lot of puck battles. He is very strong on the puck due to his strength, balance and ability to adjust his body position. This makes him difficult to separate from the puck, especially along the boards and in the corners. He works hard and is willing to compete at both ends of the ice. Grade: 60

Overall Future Projection (OFP): 64.0

A note on the 20-80 scale used above. We look at five attributes (skating, shooting, puck skills, hockey IQ and physicality) for skaters and six for goalies (athleticism/quickness, compete/temperament, vision/play reading, technique/style, rebound control and puck handling). Each individual attribute is graded along the 20-80 scales, which includes half-grades. The idea is that a projection of 50 in a given attribute meant that our observer believed that the player could get to roughly NHL average at that attribute at maturity

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