One of the biggest question marks surrounding the Minnesota Wild after they fired former GM Chuck Fletcher, was what would happen with prized—but distant—prospect Kirill Kaprizov. Kaprizov has been playing in the KHL since being drafted by the Wild in 2015, but had recently made contact with Fletcher and begun to discuss a potential future in the NHL. That progress seemed to have gone out the window and little was reported about the relationship between new GM Paul Fenton and their young Russian star, something that is set to change over the next few days.
According to several reporters including Michael Russo of The Athletic, Fenton will travel tomorrow to Russia to meet with Kaprizov in person, have dinner and watch him play. Obviously this doesn’t mean Kaprizov will be coming to North America right away, given his contract runs until 2020 with CSKA Moscow, but it does at least initiate contact once again between the two sides. There are ways out of KHL contracts, and though that is certainly not imminent, the Wild do see Kaprizov as part of their future. The 21-year old forward is off to another outstanding start in Russia, scoring 10 goals and 17 points in his first 22 games.
Drafting Russian-born players without any prior contact is always a risk given the existence of the KHL, and for Kaprizov it was no different. He fell all the way to the fifth round in the 2015 draft given his small stature and relative obscurity, and infamously didn’t even speak with the Wild for quite some time. It didn’t take long for the whole world to see how talented he was though, as he broke out in the KHL and took home a World Junior silver medal in the 2015-16 season. The U20 captaincy was next for him, as was a 42-point KHL campaign in 2016-17. Last season saw Kaprizov make the move to the more powerful CSKA squad, while also winning an Olympic gold medal and suiting up for Russia at the World Championship.
It’s obvious to see that the undersized forward is one of the most talented players not in the NHL at the moment, and many believe he could be a game-changing talent in the NHL. That’s exactly the kind of player the Wild have been looking for, in order to move them away from a slower defensively-minded team and towards the quicker, skill-based NHL. There’s still lots of work to do, but the fact that Fenton is sitting down with Kaprizov is a start.