STAMFORD, Conn. — The two young boys had gotten to the rink early, well before their scheduled youth game, because they wanted a chance to see some of Wednesday's scrimmage at the Rangers’ prospect development camp.
As the Rangers stepped onto the ice to warm up, the pair settled on a spot just outside the glass in the near corner, exactly, as it turned out, where Kaapo Kakko set up when the Rangers started their drills. One of the boys started banging on the glass, and Kakko turned around. But as the boy fumbled with his smartphone trying to get it to selfie mode, Kakko’s turn came up in the drill, so he skated away.
He came right back after he was done, though, and he happily smiled and leaned into the glass as the youngster giddily took a selfie with him. And that was kind of how Kakko’s first scrimmage went at prospect camp.
“I like it,’’ Kakko said of his interactions with the fans who showed up to see the Rangers at Chelsea Piers Connecticut. “There were so many fans today, so it was good. I like it.’’
The fans filled the small bleachers just waiting to see Kakko do something special in the two 25-minute running-time periods. The 6-2, 194-pound winger (he looks bigger in person) had one move where he dangled the puck and got around a guy, and the crowd went, “Ohhhh!’’ He also scored in a penalty shootout at the end, against goalie Tyson Wall.
“I think it wasn’t so easy, because the last time on the ice was one month ago,’’ Kakko said afterward. “But it was OK.’’
The Turku, Finland, native knows the fans like him, but he seems a little bemused by all the fuss. For now, he seems to be still trying to get the hang of New York, and work on improving his English. Tuesday night, he went to the Yankees game with the other development camp prospects, and he said he liked it, even though he didn’t follow it so well. It’s almost like the version of baseball they play in Finland, he said.
There are some other Finnish players in camp, so Kakko can speak his language with other people away from the rink. His teammate at TPS, Lauri Pajuniemi, a fifth-round pick last year, was on his team for the scrimmage, as was defenseman Tarmo Reunanen, a 2016 fourth-round pick who signed with the Rangers this summer. Leevi Altonen, a fifth-rounder last weekend in Vancouver and a friend of Kakko’s played on the other team.
As far as on-ice stuff, Kakko has limited experience playing on NHL-sized rinks, but said he enjoys it.
“The last time I was in a small rink was in Vancouver in the [World Junior Championships] U20 games,’’ he said. “It’s different than in Finland, or in the Euro [World Championships]. I like it.’’
What’s different about it, he was asked.
“I get more scoring chances,’’ he said.
Notes & quotes: F Morgan Barron and D Nils Lundkvist didn’t take part in the scrimmage . . . F Riley Hughes is not skating this week because he’s recovering from surgery on his hand and isn’t cleared for contact.