By his own admission, Rangers rookie Kaapo Kakko has not had a good start to his NHL career.
Through his first seven games in North America, the Finnish winger has scored one goal and registered two points while averaging 14:34 of ice-time.
In a busy summer for the Rangers, Kakko was seen as a key addition to this year’s team. Alongside Artemi Panarin and Jacob Trouba, the second-overall pick in 2019 was the reason many anticipated a major improvement this season for New York compared to last, expecting that the team could surprise in the standings.
A 2-4-1 record might not be the right start to confirm those predictions.
The rookie answered honestly when questioned about the team’s current situation.
“We’re not playing good right now as a team, and I’m not playing good,” Kakko said to reporters before Thursday night’s matchup against the league-leading Buffalo Sabres.
When asked where he wanted to be better, the 18-year-old did not shy away from criticizing himself.
“Everything,” he said. “I’m playing bad hockey.”
Holding the status of a team’s top pick brings its own external pressures, but Rangers head coach David Quinn recognizes that Kakko burdens himself as well.
“He does put a lot of pressure on himself, and he wants to be great right now,” Quinn said. “If we all just put ourselves in his shoes — he’s an 18-year-old kid, playing for the New York Rangers, put in a role where he’s asked to do an awful lot. Rarely does an 18-year-old come in here and storm the league.”
Such a feat is indeed quite rare and only accomplished by generational players, but Kakko’s coach can also see his potential.
“His upside is higher than most 18-year-olds that come into this league,” said Quinn. “So it may happen this week, it may happen next month, but it’s going to happen where he’s going to find the consistency in his game and he’s going to be very successful.”
It’s hard not to get wrapped up in basing your evaluation of a player on limited games. But we’re only seven contests into this Rangers season and there is still over 90 per cent of the campaign left — lots of time to improve or stay the same.
Just across the Hudson River, another 18-year-old rookie started his pressure-filled season with disappointing results as well.
The player selected before Kakko in the draft, Jack Hughes, is struggling with the New Jersey Devils. In eight games, he also has a single goal and two points.
The top two selections are linked by slight dissatisfaction and hiccups to begin their seasons. Hughes went his first six games without registering a single point and Kakko just earned his second point on Tuesday against the Coyotes.
Both players and their respective teams hope to improve in the coming weeks. The young forwards might just need a hot streak to get going this season.
More NHL coverage from Yahoo Sports