Meeting the media for the first time since re-signing with Minnesota Wild, Kirill Kaprizov looked chilling.
The left winger has had to go through a lengthy negotiation over the summer and has been rewarded with a new five-year, $45 million contract and higher expectations after he burned through the league. with his brilliant play as a 23-year-old rookie. So, does he feel pressured? “No, no, it’s not pressure,” Kaprizov said. “Now it was easy for me (once) I signed the contract. I just wanted to play, it was like, phew, now it’s just hockey. ”
And hockey is Kaprizov’s specialty. A wizard with a talent who thinks the attacking side of the game is like some others, the creative winger has claimed to be the most dynamic player Wild has ever seen. There isn’t much competition in an organization that has been successful initially by playing a defensively oriented team game. However, the first name that popped into everyone’s mind was Marian Gaborik, the franchise’s first draft player back in 2000. The peak of Gaborik’s career came in 2007-08 when hand Slovak racket scored 42 goals and 83 points, both records that stand to this day (Eric Staal reached the goal 10 years later). Kaprizov, who was selected in the fifth round of 2015, scored 27 goals and 51 points in 55 games as a rookie last season. Needless to say, Gaborik’s record is at stake.
Re-signing such a talent sounds easy, but finding a deal that works has been a challenge for Kaprizov’s career path. Not only was he selected to the final round, but the talented Russian player stayed at home longer than young stars usually do, playing five seasons in the KHL with his hometown Novokuznetsk, Ufa and finally CSKA Moscow. The wait has made it difficult for Wild fans, and sometimes it seems like the boy could simply stay in Russia and become a KHL competitive athlete. But during that time, Kaprizov won the Gagarin Cup with CSKA and won an Olympic gold medal in the 2018 Olympics in South Korea, the famous tournament that did not feature the NHLers.
Still, some questions remain as to how Kaprizov will go up against the best in the world. He responded quickly and decisively with his rookie campaign in Minnesota. “What he’s been able to do is phenomenal,” Wild guard Matt Dumba said. “And when you dig a little deeper, it’s in a COVID year where it’s hard to get up for every game, there are cases of being stuck in hotels and not being able to get the full NHL experience. . Without fans you can’t create momentum and I know this guy thrives when he has the fans around and the energy of the building. He’s been getting ready for the games and preparing very strongly, but it adds another element as he can draw crowds as he makes laps around the strike zone and makes the defender looks silly. I’m really looking forward to seeing what he can do and what steps he takes this year.”
Based on his rookie campaign and his age, Kaprizov looks fit for a high-paying day – but how big? Despite his lofty reputation against the NHL and he seemed to have fulfilled that potential as a freshman, he still only had one short season under his rule. At the same time, he will be eligible for unlimited freedom for three years. So do you go with a short-term bridge or go straight into an eight-year deal? Each of those picks has pros and cons for both the team and the player, and there isn’t much to compare for Kaprizov’s career trajectory. “It was an unusual situation,” said Wild GM Bill Guerin. “It’s such a small sample size, but then the player also has a big influence on our team with the year he has, so it’s very unusual. I knew it would take a long time regardless, so I prepared for it. And I’ve said many times, ‘We’re not the only ones. This happens all the time.’ He’s doing what he thinks is right and I’ve been there, so I don’t see the process negatively.”
Roundabout way, the negotiations finally showed Kaprizov’s ready commitment. During his early summer in Russia, Kaprizov quietly traveled to Florida for an NHL-approved COVID vaccine and a travel quarantine before formally agreeing to his new deal.
So when it finally came time to put pen to paper, Kaprizov was ready to go and get ready for training camp – which took place two days later in Minnesota. “I was worried about the protocols, but he and his agent were prepared,” Guerin said. “Kirill was back early, quarantined and everything needed to make him ready. They took the initiative and for me, that says a lot about Kirill. I’m really glad they did.”
All in all, it has been a great summer for Kaprizov, even before he signed a new contract. Thanks to the rookie’s stellar performance, the left winger became the first Wild player to win the Calder Trophy, which he learned via text message while at his parents’ home in Russia. “I said, ‘I won against Calder,’” Kaprizov recalls. “We cheered a little bit with some drinks, some beer and nothing more. I was very happy, and my family was very happy. The next day I went and practiced.”
In addition to his inherent potential, Kaprizov has also displayed a big personality that makes fans love him only more as he improves his grasp of the English language. He still uses interpreters for interviews, but has improved a lot. “When I got to Minnesota, for the first two or three months, I couldn’t speak (very well),” Kaprizov said. “A little bit I can understand. Now, it’s better but I can’t say what I want, every time I ask him”.
Wild insiders believe that Kaprizov is modest and these days he actually speaks English quite well. But he and his teammates relied heavily on Google Translate for early conversations. “He was a happy, lucky kid,” Dumba said. “We had a lot of laughs and a lot of it came from trying to put his sentences together, his experience in Russia or the places we used to play, the people he played with. He is a good person. Our friendship has been built on sushi. We have this one in town, Billy Sushi, and there was a moment last season where every time we went, this guy had a multipoint game, so we kept coming back. We had a lot of dinners together and shared a lot of laughs.”
In fact, on one particular visit, Dumba recalled Billy Sushi had a special guest chef from the suburbs who made their table a special roll. That night, Kaprizov scored three goals, and since then, the secret recipe has been called ‘Hat Trick Roll.’
And that’s the thing about Kaprizov, now 24; there was a white hot light emanating from the young man Minnesota had never seen before. Gaborik was good, but he finished seventh in Calder’s vote and didn’t win the NHL all-star team title until he was the New York Ranger. Kaprizov placed fourth in the all-star vote as a rookie and won over fans from afar outside of Minnesota. “There’s incredible value there,” Guerin said.
“He has that sparkle in his eyes. He’s fun to play with, he has that great smile and he’s fun to watch. If he does his best on the ice, which I think he will, then the sky is the limit.”
That excellence is reminiscent of fellow countryman and famous player Alex Ovechkin, whose bubbly personality only enhanced his play early in his career as one of the top scorers in the world. best NHL.
Exactly how Kaprizov does his business on ice is also fascinating to share. Dumba, one of Wild’s most important blueliners, saw Kaprizov’s skill set from both sides. “Somehow, I caught up with him in practically every 1-1 practice today so… I was there,” he said with a laugh. “You feel like you’re a step behind. The way he thinks is one thing, but it’s also the way he’s dynamic and the positions he’s in to create his separation and power, he moves completely differently from everyone else on the ice. , the way he adjusts his hips. That separation and the speed at which he does it is pretty insane. I really haven’t seen that unless you’re talking about the likes of Connor McDavid and Nathan MacKinnon. I think he’s more like MacKinnon, just with the power and explosiveness that he has. He just dropped that center of gravity on you and fell so low it was hard to push him out of the punch, that’s for sure. ”
The challenge now is that Wild can do some damage in the Central Division playoffs where the Colorado Avalanche is currently winning, a St. Louis Blues just a few years after the first Cup and dangerous teams in Dallas and Winnipeg. Kaprizov is an attacking locomotive, but developed from strikers like Joel Eriksson Ek, Jordan
Greenway and Kevin Fiala certainly helped last year. “I like to think we can play any way we want,” Guerin said. “You have to be fast and more than anything, we want fast thinkers who can really push the game and play at a fast pace. And we want high-spirited boys who are competitive nightly and play hard in the toughest situations.”
Add in the top leads Marco Rossi and Matt Boldy – although the latter will run from 2021 through the 22nd on shelves – and the attack of the future is even better. It will have to be. Over the summer, Wild took a calculated risk buying vets Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, who would be on their limited plan for years. While it has opened up cap space in the short term, the amount of “dead” cap space from acquisitions will peak at $14.7 million for the 2023-24 and 24-25 seasons, which will make everything narrow.
Despite being facilitated by Victor Rask last year, the team still does not have a real No. 1 striker to pair with Kaprizov. And it doesn’t look like the limit will increase much in the near future. “It’s true,” Guerin said. “It’s not a fantasy or a nightmare, it’s real. But look, we just need to make sure we do our homework. We have a good plan for the future and we must stick to it. If you deviate from the plan, it will have a diminishing impact and mess things up. With all of our contracts this year, we’ve had people set aside for a certain salary and we’ve done our best.
We feel everyone gets a fair deal and that’s what we’re happy with and they’re happy with. I thought we had a productive summer.”
Jettisoning Suter and Parise already have plenty of experience and leadership ability out of the dressing room, but internal expectations are for the players who will step up to captain Jared Spurgeon. “We’re all going to be involved in that,” Dumba said. “We are a young team, but there is a big core of us that has been there for a while. I’m looking at people who made great strides last year, but I think they can raise their game even further.”
The mission was clear: Minnesota hadn’t won a playoff round since 2015, and the only time Wild made it to the convention final was during their magic third season, back in 2003 (Gaborik led the way). with 17 points after 18 cards. – game season). Can the new crew use their Russian blaster as a springboard for team success? “Of course, our organization wants to win the Stanley Cup,” said Kaprizov. “Now we have to work really well, every game, every day.”
So fire up Google Translate and buy sushi, things are getting interesting in Minnesota.
https://www.si.com/hockey/news/kirill-kaprizov-now-its-just-hockey Kirill Kaprizov: It’s Just Hockey Now