With the regular season shortened to 56 games and COVID still out of control, it was expected that this class of NHL rookies would not do as well as expected.
Some have struggled both offensively and defensively, and are being the target of harsh criticism from the public and media. But in a division that has Bowen Byram, a promising blue-liner for the Colorado Avalanche, and Barrett Hayton, a pleasant surprise from the Arizona Coyotes, the Minnesota Wild’s Kirill Kaprizov has been the biggest revelation from this year’s rookies.
Kirill Kaprizov Brings Passion To the Minnesota Wild
The 23-year-old Russian arrived in Minnesota after six seasons playing in the KHL. He comes from a good year with CSKA Moskva. The rookie scored 33 goals and had 29 assists for a total of 62 points in 57 games.
Kaprizov has been praised by the North-American media even before his arrival. His talents and skills gave the entire Minnesota Wild community a new sparkle of hope. The possibility of finally having a young star who could take the team to a new level was exciting. Two months after the start of the 2020-21 season, the player is not disappointing.
Success in Numbers
During his career in the KHL, the left-winger accumulated 230 points (113 goals, 117 assists) in 293 games. In the NHL, he has 20 points, seven goals, and 13 assists, in 24 games. But numbers are not the only impressive thing about Kirill Kaprizov.
His presence on the ice, his hockey IQ, and the ability to create exceptional plays are mind-blowing. All of this made Kaprizov a rising star for the needy Minnesota team.
And the rookie is loved not only by the Wild fanbase but by all hockey fans. The Russian conquered the NHL community and the national – and international – media in the first weeks of the season. He is the favourite to win the Calder Trophy, overcoming names like Alexis Lafreniere and Tim Stützle, who were the highest-ranking rookies during the preseason.
The most impressive part about Kaprizov is that, while Lafrienièrie and Stützle were respectively the first and third choices in the NHL Entry Draft in 2020, the 23-year-old Russian was drafted 135th overall in the 2015 Draft by the Wild.
But what made Kirill Kaprizov move out of the “fifth-round pick” position to the possible best 2021 rookie? Looking at his KHL numbers, the results are nothing but flawless. Combine his skills and talents with patience and a three-year post-draft development in one of the most competitive leagues in the world, and you have the recipe for an NHL superstar.
The Kaprizov Magic
The rookie has already proven himself worthy of the NHL. He impresses with his speed and ability to master the puck with ease. One of the most impressive Kaprizov moments was a shift during the game against the Colorado Avalanche, on February 25:
Welcome to the Kirill Kaprizov skating clinic. 😱
— NHL (@NHL) February 25, 2021
Minnesota failed to generate a goal during this shift, but Kaprizov is certainly a sight for any hockey fan. His speed and puck control is comparable to veteran players like Mathew Barzal of the New York Islanders, and even to the Edmonton Oilers‘ star Connor McDavid.
His ability to make flawless plays is also impressive, creating opportunities like this:
Kirill Kaprizov keeps finding ways to impress us. 😳 pic.twitter.com/ymt27Yqnhp
— NHL (@NHL) February 25, 2021
The Russian made the perfect pass to Ryan Hartman, and he left the rookie Bowen Byram and veteran Gabriel Landeskog looking like amateurs in front of the Colorado net. And of course, it ended in a goal.
His high hockey IQ is made clear in plays like the one below. Kaprizov is in the right place at the right time to collect the rebound Calvin Petersen, the Los Angeles Kings‘ goaltender, leaves in front of the net:
Another game. Another goal for Kirill Kaprizov. pic.twitter.com/1ZLwa2S8QW
— NHL (@NHL) February 28, 2021
There are enough plays and goals to write a year’s worth of articles but what really matters is that the rookie leaves no space for criticism. The future is bright for the Minnesota Wild, which seems to have found in the rookie the final spark for them to glow. It will not be a surprise if the Russian is one of the finalists for the Calder and even less if he wins.
Kirill Kaprizov has everything to be a great NHL player and to be the new face for the Minnesota franchise.
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