Rangers' Kaapo Kakko happy to have fellow Finn Nico Mikkola on team
Artemi Panarin was happy to have longtime friend Vladimir Tarasenko join the Rangers in the big trade that general manager Chris Drury pulled off with the St. Louis Blues on Thursday.
Kaapo Kakko was happy too. Also coming to the Blueshirts in the deal was defenseman Niko Mikkola, a fellow Finn.
“Yeah, I’ve been waiting for that for four years,’’ said Kakko, who scored the Rangers’ second goal against the Seattle Kraken on Friday night, breaking a 16-game goal drought. “I got a Finnish guy over here, so that’s good for me.’’
Kakko, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2019 draft, made the Rangers as an 18-year-old in 2019-20, but they never did get a veteran Finnish player on the roster to serve as a mentor and help him acclimate to North America.
Kakko said the only other Finnish player he played with on the Rangers was defenseman Tarmo Reunanen, who got into four games with the Blueshirts in the 48-game season in 2021.
“All of us over here are good guys, but sometimes it’s fun to speak Finnish, you know?’’ Kakko said. “And I know him already, so it’s good. He’s a good guy.’’
Kakko and Mikkola were teammates on the Finnish team that won the World Championships in 2019. Mikkola, 26, said he spoke to Kakko on the phone Thursday after the trade. He said he’s happy he’s here, too. “We’re both really excited,’’ he said.
Kravtsov gets a shot
Vitali Kravtsov got back in the lineup after sitting out the previous four games as a healthy scratch. He was put at right wing on the second line with Vincent Trocheck and Chris Kreider.
“We want to give him an opportunity,’’ coach Gerard Gallant said. “I mean, he played  games in a row, and I thought it fell off a little bit. And you know what? You’re getting back in, go play with some good, skilled players, and we’ve got to find his spot and see if that works out.’’