With the second overall pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, the Rangers selected forward Kaapo Kakko.
Kakko, 18, skated in 45 games with TPS of Liiga (Finnish Elite League) this past season, registering 22 goals and 16 assists for 38 points, along with a plus-one rating and 10 penalty minutes. Kakko's 22 goals in 2018-19 were the most any U18 player has registered in one season in the history of Finland's top league, breaking the record of 21 set by Aleksander Barkov in 2012-13. In addition, Kakko's 38 points this past season were the third-most in one season by a U18 player in the history of Finland's top league, trailing only Barkov (48 in 2012-13) and Mikael Granlund (40 in 2009-10).
The 6-2, 194-pounder was named the Rookie of the Year in Liiga in 2018-19. Kakko tied for sixth in Liiga (and led all rookies) in goals during the past season. He also tied for second in the league in game-winning goals (seven). Kakko led TPS in goals and game-winning goals, tied for second on the team in shot attempts (228), and tied for third in points this past season, and he also ranked second among team forwards in average ice time in 2018-19 (18:11). He ranked third among all Liiga rookies (and led Liiga rookie forwards) in average ice time during the past season. Kakko also skated in five games with TPS during the 2019 Playoffs, registering four goals and one assist for five points. His four goals during the 2019 Playoffs were tied for the second-most by a U18 player in one year in the history of Liiga (Patrik Laine holds the record - 10 during the 2016 Playoffs). Kakko tied for fourth among all players in Liiga - and led all rookies in the league - in goals during the playoffs this past year. Including the playoffs, he registered 20 points (14 goals, six assists) over his final 18 games of the season.
Internationally, the Turku, Finland native has represented his country in several tournaments. In a 13-month span from April of 2018 to May of 2019, Kakko helped Finland win a gold medal at the 2018 IIHF U18 World Championship, the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship, and the 2019 IIHF World Championship. He became the first player in hockey history to win a gold medal at the IIHF World Championship in his U18 season. In addition, Kakko became the youngest player in hockey history to win gold medals at the IIHF U18 World Championship, the IIHF World Junior Championship, and the IIHF World Championship (18 years, 102 days old; Connor McDavid was previously the youngest player to win a gold medal in all three tournaments - 19 years, 130 days old).
Kakko tallied seven points (six goals, one assist) and posted a plus-10 rating in 10 games while helping Finland win a gold medal at the 2019 IIHF World Championship. His six goals in the tournament were tied for the second-most by a player in his U18 season in one IIHF World Championship in the tournament's history (Patrik Laine registered seven goals at the 2016 IIHF World Championship), and his seven points were the second-most by a U18 player in one IIHF World Championship (Laine - 12 in 2016). Since 1947, Kakko is one of four 18-year-olds who have tallied at least six goals in one IIHF World Championship tournament (along with Sidney Crosby, Laine, and Auston Matthews). He was named one of the Top Three Players on his Team in the tournament, as he led Finland in goals and shots on goal (40), and he also tied for the team lead in plus/minus rating.
Kakko registered five points (two goals, three assists) in seven games while helping Finland win a gold medal at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship, and he recorded the game-winning goal with 1:26 remaining in the third period in the Gold Medal Game against the United States in the tournament. He was one of only 14 players in their U18 season who represented their country at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship, and he led all of those 14 players in goals and points in the tournament. Kakko also registered 10 points (four goals, six assists) and posted a plus-eight rating in seven games while helping Finland win a gold medal at the 2018 IIHF U18 World Championship. He was named one of the Top Three Players on his Team in the tournament, and he tied for third among all players in points.
In addition to his accomplishments in Liiga and in international competition, Kakko has achieved success at several levels of hockey in Finland. In 2017-18, he registered 55 points (25 goals, 30 assists) in 35 games with TPS' junior team in Nuorten SM-liiga, and he received the Yrjö Hakala Award as the league's Rookie of the Year. In addition, Kakko tallied 41 points (24 goals, 17 assists) in 35 games with TPS' U18 team in 2016-17, and he received the Heino Pulli Award as the Jr. B SM-sarja Rookie of the Year.
The Rangers selected a player either first or second overall in the NHL Amateur/Entry Draft for the third time in franchise history and for the first time since 1966 (Brad Park - second overall). Kakko is the fourth Finnish player in league history who was selected with the second overall pick in the NHL Amateur/Entry Draft (along with Kari Lehtonen, Aleksander Barkov, and Patrik Laine). Entering the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, Kakko was the top-ranked European skater by NHL Central Scouting. In addition, Kakko was selected higher in the NHL Entry Draft by the Rangers than any European-born player in franchise history.