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Kakko, Trouba additions have Rangers coach seeing playoffs as possible

No. 2 pick in Draft, defenseman part of bright future, Quinn says

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

David Quinn hardly can mask his excitement when he starts talking about the young players who appear to be part of the future of the New York Rangers.

There's Kaapo Kakko, the 18-year-old forward the Rangers selected with the No. 2 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft on June 21.

"I had goosebumps," the Rangers coach said when talking about the night of the 2019 NHL Draft Lottery, when the Rangers moved up from No. 6 to No. 2.


[RELATED: Kakko not only Rangers prospect aiming high]


There's forward Vitali Kravtsov, the No. 9 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft. The 19-year-old will spend the offseason in the New York area working out to get ready for training camp in September with hope of being in the opening-night lineup against the Winnipeg Jets at Madison Square Garden on Oct. 3.

There's also defenseman Adam Fox, 21, the Hobey Baker Award finalist from Harvard University who the Rangers acquired in a trade with the Carolina Hurricanes on April 30 and who has a chance to be one of their top-three right-handed shots on defense.

Kakko, Kravtsov and Fox wrapped their stay at development camp in Stamford, Connecticut on Friday.

But there are more players who have Quinn looking forward to next season, like defenseman Jacob Trouba. New York acquired the 25-year-old in a trade with the Jets for defenseman Neal Pionk and the No. 20 pick in the 2019 Draft on June 17.

"Great trade by Jeff," Quinn said, referring to Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton.

Video: Trouba discusses excitement, joining Rangers rebuild

Trouba, who had an NHL career-best 50 points (eight goals, 42 assists) in 82 games this season, projects as the Rangers' new No. 1 defenseman, the insulation for Fox on a right side that features Kevin Shattenkirk and Tony DeAngelo, who can become a restricted free agent July 1.

The Rangers likely aren't done either.

They are hoping to lure forward Artemi Panarin to New York when free agency begins. They reportedly met with Panarin, who can become an unrestricted free agent July 1, and his agent in New York this week. Panarin has 320 points (116 goals, 204 assists) in 322 NHL games.

There is also forward Chris Kreider, who has one season remaining on his four-year contract with the Rangers. New York is expected to sign Kreider to an extension after he becomes eligible July 1 or trade him before the start of next season. It's unlikely they want to go into the season with his future unresolved.

Quinn spent time while in Vancouver for the draft last week discussing the Rangers' future with


What do you like about Kakko?

"The thing I love about Kakko is he's a guy who can score goals and he's a playmaker as well. He's a guy who played center for a long time until he was 15 or 16, so he does have that playmaking ability, and boy there is an awful lot of room for physical growth from him. As big (6-foot-2, 194 pounds) and strong as he is, you look at him, boy in three or four years when he's in his early 20s he's going to be a much bigger guy."

Video: The crew on Kaapo Kakko going second to the Rangers


Do you agree with the reports that he should be able to step into the lineup right away?

"I don't want to put too much pressure on him. Obviously when you're drafted that high the opportunity for those guys is there. You step into a team that didn't make the (Stanley Cup) Playoffs last year, a team that is looking for help. The League has gone younger but also you want to put these players in position to have success. Everybody is anticipating that, I'm anticipating it, but some people handle an adjustment to the NHL different than others and sometimes it's quicker for others."


Can you put a value on the importance of rebuilding the right side of the defense, starting with Trouba?

"He fit perfectly in what we're doing. This wasn't a trade to make a quick fix. He's 25 years old. He's had an awful lot of success. He had a great year last year. We think his best hockey is ahead of him. Obviously you look at the teams that have had success in the playoffs, teams that get to the Stanley Cup (Final) and win the Stanley Cup, it's all about their [defensemen]. Our sport is so driven by our defense because you have the opportunity to get involved offensively and there's a lot that goes with that. It's not just being a defenseman defending, it's all these other opportunities. He's a guy that can defend and add offensively, and those guys are hard to find."

Video: How Trouba trade impacts Rangers, Jets moving forward


As someone who coached at Boston University until taking over the Rangers this season, how well do you know Fox, who played at Harvard the past three seasons?

"I know him from afar. I've watched him an awful lot. I've never coached him. I know an awful lot about his game so there is a familiarity there without actually coaching somebody. I mean, I've seen him a ton."


How do you handle a player like Fox, who is going to try to make the tough graduation from college hockey to the NHL and with pressure on him too?

"We're not going to throw him right in. He's got to earn an opportunity to play on the Rangers. The opportunity is there for him and he's got to take advantage of it. For a guy who has had so much success in his career driven by his offense and his ability to get out of the zone, he's going to have to defend to a level he's never has had to before. I also think he's a guy who is driven and committed to it so there's an opportunity for him to do that and he's going to get every opportunity in training camp to make our team."


Do you feel there's pressure on the Rangers to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs next season?

"I think there's always pressure even when people may not expect it. As a coaching staff and as an organization, a team, we wanted to make the playoffs [this season]. We were hanging around until the trade deadline. Our goal is going to be to make the playoffs. We think we're going to have the team, if we continue to make moves, that is going to put us in position to do that. We were in a good position after Christmas, chipping away at it, and obviously the trade deadline came and we lost some key players."


Understandable with Kevin Hayes and Mats Zuccarello being talked about as trade bait and then finally getting traded. Jeff Gorton has talked about not wanting to be in that position again …

"Right, exactly. Based on what happens in the next few months we may not have the Hayes and Zuccarello situations hanging over our head, which was just a reality. It was a reality. You could sense as we were getting close to the trade deadline there was a different feel in the locker room."

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