ST. PAUL, Minn. — Kirill Kaprizov took the ice for his first official practice with the Minnesota Wild during training camp at TRIA Rink on Monday, and it didn’t take long for the 23-year-old forward to impress his new teammates.
“I think he comes as advertised,” goalie Cam Talbot said. “He’s obviously a dangerous offensive player … he can really fire the puck. He picks a spot and puts it wherever he kind of wants to, and he seems to be dangerous anytime he handles it.
“I know for a team that’s been looking for scoring, I guess you could say, to have a guy like that come in and be able to put the puck in the net, with relative ease by the looks of it, is going to be a welcome sight for this group. Having him out there is going to be an extra threat and an extra dynamic for this team, and he looked good out there today.”
Kaprizov, who was selected by Minnesota in the fifth round (No. 135) of the 2015 NHL Draft, led the Kontinental Hockey League in goals each of the past two seasons (33 in 2019-20, 30 in 2018-19). He signed a two-year, entry-level contract with Minnesota on July 13, 2020, but was ineligible to play in the postseason, when the Wild lost to the Vancouver Canucks in four games in the best-of-5 Stanley Cup Qualifiers.
Kaprizov skated on the top line with center Nick Bjugstad and left wing Zach Parise, who said the young forward’s skill level was evident.
“You can see he’s got a knack for scoring,” Parise said. “He’s going to be an exciting player for us for a long time.”
That knack has intensified the expectations for Kaprizov to immediately help out Minnesota, which was 12th in the NHL in scoring last season (3.16 goals per gamee) but had only two players score at least 20 goals (Parise, 25; forward Kevin Fiala, 23). Coach Dean Evason said he doesn’t want him to pay that any mind.
“I hope he doesn’t listen to [the hype],” Evason said. “I think he’s gotten to this point because he’s very self-driven, and I’m sure his expectations of himself are very high. We’ve spoken to him and talked to him about our expectations, (which) are that he’s a great teammate and he works his butt off every shift.
“We know he’s going to have a special talent, a special skill level, and we’re obviously excited about that, but we want him to conduct himself like we ask [everybody] on our hockey club, [and that is] that they work their butt off every shift and we give ourselves a chance to win hockey games.”
Photo credit: Erin Loughrey/Minnesota Wild