Yep, the 2019 second overall draft pick finally rolled out of bed and started the 2021-22 NHL season on Sunday, picking up his first assist of the campaign in the middle of the second period…and then adding his first goal of the season early in the third. Arguably the player most emailed and tweeted questions to me over the last month. He played 20 minutes in the game (that went to overtime) which was easily a season high. Here's his first goal, and it was a beauty (and a nice pickpocket):
On this goal, Kakko's elbow hits Mackenzie Blackwood in the head. After playing another minute or so, Blackwood left the game and into concussion protocol. He did not return and Jonathan Bernier was saddled with the SOL.
It's not often that you see a coach so patient with a player who is failing to produce on the top line, so kudos to Gerard Gallant. Kakko had zero points in 10 games playing with Ryan Strome and Artemi Panarin – and he was back playing with them on Sunday. Over the years I've had dozens of hunches and dark horse players who didn't pay off – and perhaps they would have if the coach just stuck with it for 15 games. But if they manage just two points in six or seven games (sometimes even less) and the coach will pull the plug. If all