It may have taken a little longer then NHL and New York Rangers fans would have liked, but Kaapo Kakko has officially arrived. With 1:32 remaining in the first period of Saturday's matinee against the Edmonton Oilers, the 18-year-old netted his first career NHL goal — and it was a beauty.
After entering the Oilers' zone 2-on-2, Ryan Strome dished the puck to a flying Kakko, who made his way past a backchecking Oscar Klefbom. The 2019 second-overall pick then out deked veteran netminder Mike Smith to finish on the backhand into the open net.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) October 12, 2019
Kakko entered Saturday's matinee without a point in two games but he wasn't worried — in fact, following Tuesday's practice, he may have been prophetic.
"I want to score, so there is a little bit of pressure, but we have 80 games left," Kakko told reporters. "I think it's coming. I know everybody was thinking that I'm going to score in my first game. That didn't happen. Maybe next game. Hopefully."
The excitement from the rookie and his teammates resonated around the confines of Madison Square Garden.
"What a finish there," Strome told MSG's Dave Maloney during the first intermission. "I think he wanted to kind of get that monkey off his back. Every shift he kind of said something about getting that first one and look how fired up he is there . . . it's good to see that excitement and the whole bench fed off it."
Just the eighth player in Rangers franchise history to score at 18 years old or younger and the ninth to tally a point, Kakko has impressed his teammates and coaches alike. While it is a small sample size, he entered Saturday with three shots on net while averaging just under 15 minutes of ice time.