The New York Rangers have some talented young players who are itching to break out. New head coach Peter Laviolette intends to give them the chance to prove their worth next season, with former top two picks Kappo Kakko and Alexis Lafreniere particularly in mind.
The duo each averaged a tick over 15 minutes of ice time per game last season and saw minimal time on the power play. Laviolette said he wants to challenge the pair and give them more opportunities to be impact players for the Rangers.
“They have to be given the opportunity to be counted on more,” Laviolette said. “You're talking about a couple players who are coming off maybe their best years and they're still really young players. There's a growth that goes with that. You certainly would like to see them take the next step, more minutes, maybe a little higher up in the lineup, maybe more power-play time. With that there has to be opportunity. Those opportunities will be there for them to grab that ice time and to push.”
Both Kakko and Lafreniere had their best seasons in 2022-23. Kakko had a career-high 40 points with 18 goals and 22 assists while Lafreniere hit his highest points mark with 39.
The Rangers added Vladimir Tarasenko and Patrick Kane during the season which took away from some of the young pairs playing time. With both Tarasenko and Kane hitting free agency, that opens the door for Kakko and Lafreniere once again.
Though they have a combined seven seasons of NHL experience under their belts, Kappo Kakko and Alexis Lafreniere are still just 22 and 21 years old. There may be a heap of untapped potential waiting to unfold from both of them and the Rangers are intent on making that happen.