When you think of the Wild this year you think of Kirill the Thrill. But there’s another Wild rookie that is making headlines. Kaapo Kähkönen and he’s doing it in the net.
Kaapo is A Finnish goaltender that was drafted by the Wild in Fourth Round in 2014. Kaapo played in his Junior year for the Espoo Blues in the Jr.A which is the top Junior league in Finland. Looks like The Wild were trying to find the next Niklas Bäckström.
Kähkönen plays in the Mestis
In the 2014-15 season, Kaapo made his professional debut on loan to TUTO Hockey of the Mestis which is the Finnish Minor Leagues. He played 47 games in the regular season and had a GAA of 2.11 and a save % of .925. Kaapo led TUTO to a regular-season title. In the Playoffs, he played 13 games had a GAA of 1.95 and a save % .934 TUTO won Bronze that year. Kaapo went on to be Rookie of the year. A first-team All-Star, and Best Goaltender in his first year in the pros.
In the 2015-16 season, he returned home to the Espoo Blues. Where he only played 27 games that year. Which was significantly lower than his time with TUTO. In those 27 games, he was 6-15-5, he had 1 shutout, A GAA of 2.69, and a Save % of .908
Kähkönen plays in the Liiga
On April,13,2016 Kaapo left the Blues (no not those Blues) for more playing time. He then signed with Lukko Rauma in the Liiga. In the 2016-17 season, he posted impressive enough numbers to earn him a starting position with the World Juniors team for Finland. In the Liiga he played 34 games had a record of 12-12-10, with 2 shutouts, a GAA of 2.58, and a Save Percentage of .921. A hell of a lot better than last year with Espoo.
Kähkönen leads Finland in the World Juniors
The World Juniors in 2016 was in Helsinki so Kaapo Kähkonen was playing in front of friends, family, and fellow countrymen. Finland was 2nd in Group B behind Russia, and guess who was playing for the Russians… Kirill Kaprizov.
In the Tournament the Fins had to beat Canada, Sweden who was one of the top teams that year. Then the Gold Medal game came down to Russia and Finland and Kähkönen led the Fins to the gold medal by beating the Russians 4-3 in OT a GWG by Now Pittsburgh Penguin Kasperi Kapanen who beat now Rangers Goaltender Alexander Georgiev. Kaapo was the 4th best goaltender that year with only 9 goals against, a GAA of 2.52, and a save % of 91.1.
Kaapo’s final year in Finland
The 2017-18 season for Lukko Rauma was his standout year. Kaapo had career-best by leading the Liiga in Minutes Played with 3,275. Games Played with 56, and shutouts with 6. Kaapo also had a GAA of 2.20, and a save % of .920. that was his final year in Finland cause after the season. On May,17,2018 Kaapo signed a 2-year, Entry-Level contract with the Minnesota Wild.
Kaapo plays in the AHL for Iowa
So in 2018-19, Kaapo was sent to the AHL Affiliate of the Minnesota Wild the Iowa Wild. His first year in Iowa he did ok. He played 39 games had a record of 17-14-8. He had 6 shutouts, a GAA of 2.78, and a save % of .908. in that year he was invited to the all-star game. It was his 2019-20 season that got him noticed and looked at from the parent club.
He played 34 games, and his record was an impressive 25-6-3. Kaapo had 7 shutouts, a GAA of 2.07, and a save % of .927. this year was significantly better he was a first-team all-star. And Kaapo won the Aledge “Baz” Bastien Memorial Award given to the AHL Goaltender of The Year. And with that performance, Kaapo was recalled by the Wild on November,20,2019.
Kaapo gets a taste of the NHL
After serving as a backup in two games to Starter Alex Stalock with Devan Dubnyk Injured. Kaapo became just the Fourth Minnesota Wild goalie to be given a start for his NHL Debut. That game was against the New Jersey Devils on November,26,2019.
Kaapo made 32 Saves recording his first victory in a 3-2 Wild win. Kähkönen officially conceded his first goal. Against Devil’s rookie Jesper Boqvist. Even though after the game the NHL admitted that they made an error. On the ruling in a coach’s challenge review from the Wild. Kaapo played 2 more games that year he was 3-1-1, no shutouts, a GAA of 2.96, and a save % of .913
Kaapo Arrives in Minnesota
Kaapo came to Minnesota not knowing what was going to happen if he was going to be the #1 or #2. Luckily he and current #2 I guess Cam Talbot have been playing and complimenting each other very well. Cam has played 12 games this year he’s 6-5-1 as of this writing with a GAA of 2.66, and a save % of .915.
Kaapo leads all rookie goaltenders he’s played 16 games, started 15 of those. Has a record of 12-4-0. He has won 9 straight between the pipes. He has a GAA of 2.05 which not only leads all rookies he’s the 5th best in the league. His save % is .927 which is 2nd for Rookies behind Alexander Nedeljkovic, and 5th best in the League. In Kaapo’s Last 5 starts he has faced a total of 137 shots, and only let in 6 goals. He has 2 shutouts in the last 5 games. One against the Arizona Coyotes (31 shots), and the other against the division-leading Vegas Golden Knights (26 shots).
If Kaapo Keeps this up along with the rest of the Wild. We might not just be talking about the Calder for him. The Vezina could be in his future, and the trend of his play it is looking that way.
Remember the Sly Fox sniffs out the story for the fans.
Jeremy “Fox” Miller