The projected second pick in the upcoming NHL Draft has been nothing short of dazzling for his native Finland during the ongoing IIHF World Championships in Slovakia. Kaapo Kakko, the 18-year-old winger who broke the Finnish league’s record for most goals by a first-time draft-eligible player, has been the talk of the tournament’s group stage, and today against Denmark, he tied Evgenii Dadonov at the top of the leaderboard with his sixth goal in four games.
Here he is in the second period, with his team down 1-0, taking the puck behind center ice, avoiding a poke check, evading a sliding defender, and rounding the goalie for the tying goal.
The big revelation of seeing Kakko on this stage is the apparent fact that he cannot lose control of the puck unless he for some reason wants to. This became clear by his third game, which came against the USA. While Finland went on to lose 3-2, in the battle for scouts’ attention between first-pick favorite Jack Hughes and Kakko, it was the Finn who you couldn’t take your eyes off.
This sequence from overtime, though it doesn’t end in a goal, is breathtaking for the absolute display of dominance Kakko puts on over Ryan Suter, who’s a full order of magnitude better than any blueliner Kakko would have faced back home.
If actual scoring is more your thing, here’s an empty-netter Kakko tallied to complete a hat trick against Slovakia, where he used his strength to shed a defender like he’s Ricky Williams.
Size and strength is one area where Kakko has the clear edge on Hughes, and he’s been showcasing it all tournament. In the first game against Canada, Kakko spectacularly put one behind Matt Murray on a breakaway even as he was getting tripped from behind.
Kakko’s stickhandling has been masterful too, giving him the ability to work out of tight spaces and make defenders look silly. Also in the Slovakia game, this absurd move through the defender’s legs immediately put Kakko in perfect scoring position, which he didn’t waste:
On the less competitive side, here’s a mesmerizing hand switch Kakko makes on a practice penalty shot by bouncing his stick off the ice. Somehow, he makes it look easy.
Friendship ended with Jack Hughes. Now Kaapo is my best friend.