MINNEAPOLIS - One of the most anticipated prospects in the history of the Minnesota Wild isn’t with the team yet, but Kirill Kaprizov is hoping that changes as early as next week.
The Russia native made his NHL dream official, signing a two-year, entry-level contract with the Wild. Kaprizov was in Moscow Wednesday morning as General Manager Bill Guerin presented him his No. 97 jersey virtually on Zoom. Kaprizov flashed a big smile, and a thumbs up.
“Since 2015, Kirill’s draft day, we’ve been looking forward to getting him to Minnesota with the Wild, putting on his first Wild jersey and getting involved with his new teammates. We’re extremely happy to have him in the mix with the Minnesota Wild going forward, this is a big day and we’re extremely excited about Kirill coming here,” Guerin said. “I think it looks pretty good and can’t wait to give this to you in person Kirill.”
There remains multiple challenges in getting Kaprizov to Minnesota. They need to work out logistics for a visa, and they’re working out details on a plan for quarantine when he would arrive to the Twin Cities.
The Wild want Kaprizov to be with the team when they travel to Edmonton for the NHL’s return to play. Their plan is to leave by July 26.
“I can’t wait to put on the jersey. I hope that happens sometime as soon as next week, I’m really eager and excited to join the team,” Kaprizov said through an interpreter.
While not eligible to play until next season, Wild fans should be excited about Kaprizov. His numbers speak for themselves.
Kaprizov had 62 points, including 33 goals, a plus-32 rating, six power-play goals and six game-winning goals in 57 games this season with CSKA Moscow of the Kontinental Hockey League. He set career-highs in goals, even-strength goals, assists, points and shots on goal. The Russia native led the KHL in goals for the second straight year, was third in scoring and led his team in power-play goals.
Kaprizov, 23, is a five-time KHL All-Star, and played for Russia in the 2018 Winter Olympics. He had nine points, including five goals, in six games and scored the game-winning goal in overtime against Germany in the Gold medal game. He tied for first in goals, and tied for second in scoring at the Winter Olympics.
He doesn’t expect there to be a big transition to the NHL.
“I don’t think it’s going to be a huge difference. Obviously this is the best league in the world and I’m always looking forward, but it’s the game of hockey and it’s just playing the game and enjoy it,” Kaprizov said. “I’m hoping I’m going to do really well.”
He will have to adjust to life in the United States. He’s never been to Minnesota, but has been in contact with at least one current Wild player in Jared Spurgeon. He knows there are lakes to enjoy, and the winters are cold.
His main focus right now is on hockey and joining his new team.
“The season isn’t over for my teammates so I’m going to come and train with them and root for them. I’m really not the type of person that’s going to worry about scoring goals or how many points,” Kaprizov said. “I’m going to try to enjoy the game as much as I can, and the results are going to come by itself.”
“We’ll make sure his adjustment to the United States is comfortable,” Guerin said.
His skill is undeniable, but Guerin and head coach Dean Evason have both raved this week about his willingness to battle in the corners for 50-50 pucks, and put himself in positions to score goals with grit and effort.
"What I was most impressed with was when he went into corners for 50-50 pucks, he came up with those pucks. And if he didn’t, he was competing his butt off to do that. That’s exciting for me," Evason said.
Kaprizov is coming with high anticipation and expectations, and he’s ready to embrace it all.
“I knew and anticipated people would want me to come and prove myself with the Wild. I’d like that as well. I appreciated that,” Kaprizov said. “I’m going to give 100 percent and I hope people are excited with the progress which I expect I’m going to have.”