These are times of uncertainty for Minnesota Wild fans. After back to back to back seasons of getting eliminated in the first round of the Playoffs, Wild owner (and former frat boy) Craig Leipold fired long time general manager Chuck Fletcher and replaced him with Paul Fenton.
Fenton would go on to trade away core players and offensive weapons for young players with potential and Victor Rask (lol).
The combination of Paul Fenton’s trades along with getting struck with the injury bug, resulted in the Wild missing the playoffs last year and Paul Fenton getting fired. Minnesota finished with a record of 37-36-9, in a brutally tough Central Division. A brief look at the stats paints a clean picture of why this team finished so poorly. THEY COULDN’T SCORE GOALS! The defense and goaltending were playoff caliber, only giving up 237 goals, which was the 13th best in the NHL. The offense however was pitiful, finishing 28th out of the 31 NHL teams in “Goals Scored”.
This team is in desperate need for a dynamic offensive player, and the signings of Mats Zuccarello and Ryan Hartman won’t be enough to bring long-term stability to this Franchise.
Amid all of this chaos, it can be hard to remember that the Minnesota Wild have a bona fide superstar in their ranks, a potential franchise-saver. That man’s name is Kirill Kaprizov.
Player Profile: Kirill Kaprizov and Why You Should Be Excited… or Maybe Worried
Kirill Kaprizov is a Russian born 22-year-old who is currently tearing up the KHL, Russia’s premier professional hockey league which is widely considered the best league outside of the NHL. He has been hailed as being the next NHL superstar from Russia, and has drawn praise from many Russian NHLers including Evgeny Kuznetsov (Washington Capitals center), Dmitry Orlov (Washington Capitals defensemen), Alexandar Georgiev (New York Rangers goaltender), and Nikita Kucherov (Tampa Bay Lightning forward) , who won the Art Ross Trophy for leading the NHL in points last season. Kaprizov is definitely the best prospect the Wild have, and he could be a franchise-altering player. Wild fans have every right in the world to be excited. However...*Drama alert*... they also should be worried that they may never see Kirill Kaprizov in a Minnesota Wild uniform.
Overview of Kaprizov’s Situation: Why Isn’t He Currently in a Wild Uniform?
Kaprizov was drafted with the 135th overall selection in the 5th round of the 2015 Entry Draft, which is an absolute steal. The belief is former GM Chuck Fletcher didn’t realize the kind of talent the kid had, and didn’t make it a priority to come up with a strategy to get him to Minnesota right away. That, along with other personal reasons, is why Kaprizov signed a 3 year KHL deal that makes him ineligible to play in the NHL until the 2020-2021 season. There is currently a bunch of speculation regarding Kaprizov’s decision to play in the KHL instead of for the Wild. Did he sign this deal to wait out Minnesota’s Draft rights and sign with a better team? Did he stay in Russia for the money? Did he stay for development purposes? We will dive into this in more detail in a little bit, but first, let’s just really see why Kaprizov has so much hype.
Why You Should Be Excited
For starters: the Russian’s have been excited about him for a long time. He was drafted #1 overall in the 2014 KHL draft, and as of today, is leading the KHL in scoring!
TOP 5 KHL Point Getters Thru September 20, 2019
1 Kaprizov, Kirill
8 Games Played 5 Goals 7 Assists 12 Points
2 Macek, Brooks
8 Games Played 6 Goals 5 Assists 11 points
3 Dawes, Nigel
8 Games Played 5 Goals 6 Assists 11 Points
4 Grigorenko, Mikhail
8 Games Played 3 Goals 7 Assists 10 Points
5 Zhafyarov, Damir
9 Games Played 5 Goals 4 Assists 9 Points
*All data provided by the KHL's official website
Career Accolades (provided by eliteprospects.com)
4 time KHL All-Star (2015-2019)
2018 Olympic Goal Medalist
In 2018-2019, he Led KHL in Goals (30)
2018-2019 KHL Gagarin Cup Champion. The Gagarin Cup is presented to the winner of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) playoffs. Fun Fact of the Day, the Gagarin Cup is named after Yuri Gagarin, the first human in space.
In 2018-2019, he led the KHL in game winning goals (11)
U20 World Junior Championship Silver (15'-16') and Bronze (16'-17') medalist
Multiple 2016-2017 U20 World Junior Championship awards including: most goals, most points, made the all-star game, and was voted best forward of the tournament.
Since many great NHLers have come from the KHL, we can compare statistics as an attempt to get a baseline of Kaprizov's ability. Even among the greats he stands out.
Kaprizov vs Alexander Ovechkin
In both of their age-18 seasons playing in Russia, Kaprizov scored 27 points in 53 games while Ovechkin scored 24 points in 53 games. In their age-19 seasons, Kaprizov impressed with 42 points in 49 games, while Ovechkin scored 26 points in 37 games. Ovechkin left for the NHL at 20 years old. This kid put up better numbers then Ovechkin at the same age...wow
Kaprizov vs Evgeny Kuznetsov
Kuznetsov tore up the KHL in his teenage years, where he scored 41 points in 49 games in his age-19 season, a record which Kaprizov would go on to brake with 42 points in 49 games.
Ovechkin and Kuznetsov are NHL stars, and Kaprizov was arguably even better then them at the same age.
Other Russian Stars are constantly praising his ability
Evgeny Kuznetsov: "He's got everything to be a top player in the league, it's just about the timing. He's going to come and their coaches are going to handle the situation and where he's going to play and what kind of role he plays in. He's one of the greatest young players. It's not easy to play on this level but he's handled the pressure pretty well. I hope he's going to stay healthy the next couple years and he can come to the NHL more mature, more physical style. He'll be great for Minnesota, for sure."
New York Rangers goaltender Alexandar Georgiev: "He's extremely skilled. The first practice with the National team he looked like a really skilled, NHL-level player. He's a great guy, also. I played with him at the World Juniors. I think he has a bright, bright future in front of him."
Art Ross winner Nikita Kucherov: "He's definitely a hell of a player. A lot of skill. [I'm] looking forward to him to see what he does in the NHL."
*All Quotes From Aaron Vickers
Based off of these reviews, I think it is more then safe to say that Kirill Kaprizov is the type of player that you can build a franchise around. Check out some highlights below:
Why You Should Be Worried
Kaprizov has said publicly that he wants to play in the NHL, but has not had kind words to say about playing for an unstable franchise, and has also been critical of the Chuck Fletcher and Paul Fenton eras. This, along with signing the three year deal in the KHL, has started gossip around the league about the possibility of Kaprizov waiting out Minnesota's draft rights and signing with another NHL team, or that he may possibly continue his stay in the KHL.
Minnesota is still all in on Kirill Kaprizov. In fact, one of the first things new Wild GM Bill Guerin did when he was hired, was schedule a time to meet with Kaprizov. Head coach Bruce Boudreau had this to say when Michael Russo asked him about the Kaprizov situation:
"I’m like everybody else here. I’m pretty anxious to see this guy. I asked Bill Guerin the same question the other day and he said, “He’s special, he’s just special.” That’s about the fourth GM that has told me that on him. If that’s the case, I think the Wild are going to get quite a good player when he eventually comes over and I think he’s eligible to come over after this year. So as long as we don’t put too much pressure on him as fans and let the young man develop properly, I think you’re going to have a really good player here."
It's no secret that the Wild are going to pull out all of their tricks when it comes to getting Kaprizov to sign this coming summer.
Should Wild Fans Be Optimistic?
I think it it’s very reasonable for Wild fans to get excited about the possibility of Kaprizov donning a Wild jersey in 2020. Why? Because the Wild brass are fully aware of the talent at stake, and will be going all out to get him in Minnesota. I am absolutely positive that Bill Guerin sees Kaprizov as the future and will be wiling to not only compensate him like a star, but also build the entire team around him, and possibly even give him a say in team operations such as the draft and free agency (AKA: The LeBron James treatment ).
Check out my piece on Paul Fenton here: https://www.10000takesmn.com/post/mn-wild-talk-paul-fenton-sucks-and-craig-leipold-made-it-all-worse