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Kakko’s OT Winner caps off strong Traverse City trip for Rangers prospects

The New York Rangers’ prospects have played all their games so far this summer at the annual prospect tournament in Traverse City, Michigan. Hobey Baker finalist at Harvard University, Adam Fox and 19-year-old winger Vitali Kravstov led the team with five points at this year’s tournament. Fox and Kravstov were good, but the all the hype has surrounded the Rangers’ second-overall pick Kaapo Kakko following his tour-de-force performance on Monday night.

In the Rangers third game against the Wild, Kakko set Kravstov up on the team’s first two goals. On both goals, Kakko made cross-ice passes to Kravstov who shot the puck past the Wild netminder on the one-timer. If that were not enough, Kakko ragged the puck behind the Wild net and made a short pass to Patrick Newell who stuffed the puck past the Wild netminder for his first goal as a Ranger.

In overtime, the Rangers 18-year-old Finnish phenom scored the winner thanks to a highly skilled individual effort.

Kakko made a great move around a Wild defenseman, sticking out his leg and protecting the puck. Kakko skated around the Wild net twice before stuffing home a wrap-around to win the game in overtime.

Kakko’s assists can be chalked up to his ability to stickhandle with speed and protect the puck using his size. He also made a great pass around a defenseman’s stick on Vitali Kravstov’s first goal.

Kakko’s performance in game three of the Traverse City Tournament makes a statement. That statement is, Kaapo Kakko is a complete forward, who has excellent playmaking and scoring ability. The 18-year-old Fin’s overtime-winner shows that Kakko has the speed to generate speed into the offensive zone and create offense all on his own.

However, Kakko was not the only Ranger that stood out. The Rangers’ 58th overall pick in this year’s draft, Karl Henriksson had a very strong tournament. Henriksson scored his first goal as a Ranger Sunday against the Stars, when Adam Fox shot the puck on goal and Henriksson tipped in the shot in the slot. Despite not being a big player, Henriksson was able to hang in front of the net– take a cross-check– and deflect the puck past the Wild netminder.

Second-round pick defenseman Matthew Robertson described how it felt score his first goal as a Ranger Sunday against the Stars;

“It’s a great pass by Keane, I saw the ice and had a lot of space to walk down and make a play,” Robertson said, “It was everyone on the ice who contributed, just on the screen, and it’s an unbelievable feeling getting that first goal.”

Robertson expressed that playing for an original six team is an honor for him;

“There’s a certain feeling you get when you put on a Rangers jersey, you feel an honor wearing an NHL jersey and it’s an original six team.”

Adam Fox exhibited just why the Rangers front office traded for him this offseason. Fox scored two goals and added three assists, making him tied for the team-lead.

General Manager Jeff Gorton described what he saw from Fox in Traverse City;

“He’s as advertised, his hockey sense, his poise with the puck, and the plays he’s able to make,” Gorton said, “So we’re looking forward to the next step getting him in with the NHL guys next week.”

One question Adam Fox has been answering at the Traverse City Tournament is whether or not his college game can translate to the NHL level;

“I think pro hockey is a lot different from college, so I got a taste playing at the World Championships where the ice is a little bigger. But I think for me just the pace and [playing against] older guys, so they’re a lot stronger. I think it’s going to take me bearing down in certain situations and it’s definitely an adjustment, but skating with the guys this summer has helped ease it.”

The Rangers’ prospects played their final game of the tournament against the St. Louis Blues’ prospects. In the fourth and final game, Patrick Newell scored a goal in his second consecutive game and Jake Elmer added a goal on an assist from Karl Henriksson. Henriksson has had a nice tournament for the Rangers with not much expected from him. Look out, the 19-year-old Swede could play his way onto the Rangers roster. Overall, the Rangers prospects finished the tournament by winning their last three matches.

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Anthony has been a sportswriter at In The Zone since Sept. 2019. He graduated from Montclair State, where he was assistant Editor of the student newspaper's sports section. He also co-hosts a sports-themed radio show on the campus station, WMSC 90.3 FM, which was recently named #1 college radio station in the nation.
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