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Kaapo Kakko ready for Rangers leap after surviving rookie pressure

Rangers 19-year-old winger Kaapo Kakko skates into a Q&A with Post columnist Steve Serby ahead of the Rangers’ season opener against the Islanders Thursday night.

Q: Did you feel pressure last year as the second overall pick?

A: Yeah, of course a little bit.

Q: What are your goals for this season?

A: Playing better than last season. Just trying to learn and improve in all areas and help the team win.

Q: Were there times you lost your confidence?

A: Yeah, of course a little bit. I think it will help me in the long run and make me better.

Q: Are you stronger than you were last year, or faster?

A: Yes I am. Last summer was a good time for me. I spent sent more time at the gym and on the ice. In Finland, everything was open at first, so that was good for me.

Q:. How much better can you be this season?

A: I know what to expect. I know how fast the game is, things like that. So much easier I think.

Rangers Kaapo Kakko
Kaapo Kakko (#24) begins his second Rangers season Thursday night.
Nick Homler/NY Rangers

Q: What were the biggest surprises for you last season?

A: There are so many games, like we are playing all the time, and the rink is so much smaller and the league is faster. And of course better players and stronger guys. Did I expect those things? Of course, I’m always watching hockey, but it was definitely an adjustment.

Q: One area you want to improve.

A: I think in the defensive zone I need to be better. That is something I am working on.

Q: Give me a scouting report on yourself.

A: I think I am good in the offensive zone, making plays and can score goals – though I am trying to be so much better. I am trying to learn to be better defensively and be a solid player in both zones.

The Post’s Rangers podcast, “Up In The Blue Seats,” returns with its season premiere on Thursday.

Q: A message for Rangers fans?

A: We have a great team. I think it’s fun to watch and hopefully my game is fun to watch, I feel so much better right now than last season. Hopefully I can see the fans soon at Madison Square Garden.

Q:.Opening Night against the Islanders.

A: It’s a rivalry game, right? It’s always a big game, but against the Islanders, I think it’s a little bigger for us.

Q: How good can this team be?

A: We have players like (Artemi) Panarin and (Mika) Zibanejad and players like that, that are so good, and then we have younger guys who are going to be better.

Q: What makes Panarin so good?

A: He’s so fun to watch and I try to learn all the time when he’s on the ice. He can see the whole ice, and he’s a great passer, and great player in the offensive zone.

Q: What makes Mika so good?

A: Very good playing both areas, offensive and defensive zones. Can play the power play and penalty kill, and a great teammate in the locker room.

Q: Chris Kreider?

A: Great skater, that’s the first thing I can say. He is so big and fast. One of the strongest players in the league.

Q: Alexis Lafreniere. Tell me about his game.

A: Great skater and very good in the offensive zone. I am excited to be his teammate.

Q: What impresses you about (Igor) Shesterkin?

A: He is just so quick. He is not a big goalie, but he is so fast and he stops everything.

Q: Best moment in your hockey career.

A: My first game in the NHL, that was my dream when I was younger.

 Q: What do you remember about your first goal?

A: Just a great feeling, something I dreamed about since being a little kid. I can’t describe the moment, I was just so happy.

Q: What were the playoffs like? Were they different than the regular season?

A: We were not happy how we did in the playoffs as a team. I think it will be a good learning experience that the younger guys went through that. Everything is faster and more physical.

Q: Describe your game-winner in the 2019 World Juniors and what it meant to you.

A: Great memories from my time in Finland. I love scoring goals and being the one to be relied on to help my team win. A great moment and want to do that in the NHL.

Q: Who are the NHL players you like watching and why do you like watching them?

A: I like watching Patrik Laine, another player from Finland.

Q: How do you take care of your diabetes? Has it ever been a problem for you?

A: It is not too bad. I have known about it since I was a teenager. I have to eat healthy and train, it is not a problem.

 Q: Favorite singer.

A: Post Malone.

Q: Favorite meal.

A: Steak and french fries.

nypost.com

New York Post

The New York Post is a daily tabloid newspaper in New York City. The Post also operates NYPost.com, the celebrity gossip site PageSix.com and the entertainment site Decider.com.

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