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Kakko, Rangers hopefuls heading to NHL Prospect Tournament

Forward, No. 2 pick of 2019 Draft, to miss first game because of illness

by Jon Lane @JonLaneNHL / Staff Writer

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Kaapo Kakko will have to wait to play his first game as a member of the New York Rangers.

The 18-year-old forward and No. 2 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft missed the first game of the 2019 NHL Prospect Tournament at Centre ICE Arena in Traverse City, Michigan on Friday. Kakko missed practice on Thursday because of illness, but made the trip. He's listes as day to day. 

Kakko is one of several Rangers prospects who could use the four-day tournament as a springboard to NHL spots this season, among them defenseman Adam Fox and forward Vitali Kravtsov.

Video: Kaapo Kakko ranks No. 2 on the Top Prospects List

Fox was acquired in a trade with the Carolina Hurricanes on April 30 and agreed to terms on a three-year entry-level contract May 2. The 21-year-old was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, given to the top NCAA men's hockey player, after he had 48 points (nine goals, 39 assists) and was plus-23 in 33 games last season as a junior at Harvard University. He also had one assist in eight games for the United States at the 2019 IIHF World Championship.

"It was a good summer," Fox said. "It's nice to get some games in before (training) camp starts. I'm excited to get going. Guys are going to be competing and trying to make a good impression, so I think it's going to be some good games for sure."

Kravtsov, a 19-year-old who was the No. 9 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, led under-20 players in the Kontinental Hockey League in goals (eight), assists (13) and points (21) in 50 games with Traktor Chelyabinsk last season.

Kravtsov spent his offseason in Stamford, Connecticut, adding strength and muscle to his 6-foot-3, 183-pound frame.

"I've waited for this the whole summer," Kravtsov said. "I've worked hard to show something in Traverse City. A lot of players told me in Traverse City there's strong hockey. A lot of hits, a lot of fights. It will be great to try it."

Since the Rangers began sending their prospects to Traverse City in 2006, at least one has played a regular-season NHL game with them that season, including five last season (forwards Lias Andersson, Filip Chytil, Tim Gettinger and Brett Howden, and defenseman Ryan Lindgren).

Also heading to Traverse City is 23-year-old goalie Igor Shesterkin. He likely will start the season with Hartford of the American Hockey League, but his ceiling is high after he went 88-16-7 with a 1.68 goals-against average and .935 save percentage in 117 KHL games during the past six seasons. He also got some advice from longtime No. 1 goalie Henrik Lundqvist.

"He is 'King,'" Shesterkin said. "He's helped me when I've spoken with him. But it's a secret, so I'm not telling you."

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