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Could Minnesota Wild Draft Prospect: Kirill Kaprizov Be The Next Artemi Panarin?

Kirill Kaprizov, the Next Artemi Panarin?

[the_ad id=”534″]The modern NHL is a young man’s game, this is becoming more and more apparent year after year. Because of this, strategic drafting and player development are becoming a critical part of building Stanley Cup contenders. All across the league, we’re starting to notice teams not only employing more youngsters but are in fact relying heavily on them to play a role. The Toronto Maple Leafs are the obvious example here, with players such as Auston Matthews, Mitchell Marner and William Nylander playing crucial roles and vaulting the Maple Leafs from the NHL’s basement last season to a wild card playoff spot as of the writing of this article. Other teams placing more responsibility on youngsters include the Winnipeg Jets (Patrik Laine, Mark Scheifele, and Nik Ehlers) the Florida Panthers (Jonathan Huberdeau, Alexsander Barkov, Aaron Ekblad, Vincent Trocheck) and the Columbus Blue Jackets (Brandon Saad, Seth Jones, Alexander Wennberg, Zach Werenski, Boone Jenner).

While younger players are making an impact with their NHL teams right now, many players are beating on the door waiting for their opportunity to prove their worth. Dylan Strome, Jesse Puljujarvi, and Joel Eriksson Ek are all household names in the prospect department, and while all have gotten a taste of the NHL level, none have yet to become regulars.



One prospect who is showing he has the capabilities to be a player of this magnitude -yet is not getting the attention he deserves- is Kirill Kaprizov. Taken in 5th round by the Minnesota Wild in 2015, Kaprizov just finished playing through his 2nd full season in the KHL after putting up 42 points in 49 games with UFA Salavat Yulyaev. He broke the record for most points by a teenager in a KHL regular season, previously held by Evgeni Kuznetsov of the Washington Capitals. Kaprizov dominated at the 2017 World Junior Championship scoring 9 goals and 12 points in 7 games and putting up a respectable +8, which demonstrates that his skills are useful at both ends of the ice, a trait that all NHL teams highly covet.

Despite his obvious offensive talents, there are a couple knocks on Kaprizov. The first being his size; standing at 5’10” and weighing in at 185 lbs, he isn’t the biggest man on the ice. While smaller players always run the risk of getting rocked and being seriously injured, the NHL has been transitioning to a game where smaller players can not only compete, but they can dominate. One only needs to look to Kaprizov’s fellow countryman Artemin Panarin and his Chicago Blackhawks teammate Patrick Kane for confirmation; Kane (24 g, 41 a) and Panarin (19 g, 36 a) sit 3rd and 14th, respectively in NHL scoring. Both Kane and Panarin stand under 6’ tall and neither hits 180 lbs on the scale, which should be highly encouraging for both Kaprizov and the Minnesota Wild.





[the_ad id=”384″]The second knock on Kaprizov, and the most likely reason for his late draft selection is the Russian factor. NHL teams are always hesitant to select players from the Motherland with high draft picks because they always run the risk of seeing that player stick with what’s familiar and play out his entire career in the KHL. Some players like Nikita Filatov and Alexandre Volchkov were drafted with top 5 draft selections and never made an impact in the NHL. Filatov played 53 games before heading back to the KHL while Volchkov eked out a mere 3 NHL games before going back to Russia. Even established NHL players like Ilya Kovalchuk, Pavel Datsyuk and Alex Radulov eventually decided to play back home. Kovalchuk caused the most controversy when he “retired” from the NHL to play for SKA St. Petersburg. This would ultimately cost the New Jersey Devils a 1st round draft pick and create a massive hole in their roster that has yet to be filled. While Radulov has made a successful NHL comeback this season with the Montreal Canadiens, there is always the risk of Russian players being tempted into playing closer to their families and friends.

Despite these minor issues, Kirill Kaprizov continues to impress. Even with players like Eriksson Ek, Luke Kunin and Alex Tuch in their arsenal, the Minnesota Wild have got to be excited about their young Russian forward, and it would not be a stretch to expect them to reach out to his agent with a contract offer as early as this season. The KHL playoffs end just as the NHL playoffs begin and, after the recent acquisition of Martin Hanzal, the Wild could look to Kaprizov to bolster an already potent offense and make them a Stanley Cup contender, if not a favorite.

  1. Michael Sonday says

    Great read.

  2. Rick says

    Very well written and informative article..

  3. Joe says

    He still has another year on his KHL contract. Unless he pays to buyout the contract (the Wild can’t pay it, he has to), he’s stuck in Russia for another year. He’s not even allowed to come to our development camp this summer because of the contract. Have to wait another 14 or so months before we can sign him and get him on the ice in any capacity.

    1. Kavan says

      Thanks for the feedback. You’re absolutely right, and that is something I should have included in the article. That being said, many players get tempted by the shot at winning a Cup and buy out their KHL contracts to come over. Last season alone, at least three players (Vadim Shipachyov, Yevgeni Dadonov and Denis Guryanov) attempted to terminate their contracts to come to the NHL but couldn’t agree on a deal with a North American team. Because of how well the Wild have played this season and the fact that they have a legitimate shot at winning it all, this is the route I expect Kaprizov to take.

      1. TrueBlue says

        That’s the first I’ve heard of it, so credit to you he does come over this year. Most sources I’ve read have been wondering if he’ll even be in Minnesota next year due to his contract. The Wild can’t even sweeten the pot because he’ll be on an ELC.

        1. Kavan says

          I didn’t mean to imply that this was happening; this is, of course just an opinion piece. But despite only being on an ELC, Minnesota can still offer performance bonuses for things like games played, goals scored, awards, etc. That can sweeten the pother. Connor McDavid, for example has a base salary of $925k but can make almost $3 million of he hits certain seasonal milestones. That being said, I do agree that it’s a long shot that Kaprizov comes over, but if Minnesota finishes strong and makes a good enough pitch, it’s not entirely unfathomable.

  4. Alex says

    Sweet info! I’ll keep an eye out for this guy in fantasy!

    1. Kavan says

      He’ll be a massive sleeper in most leagues, so watch out if the Wild bring him in!

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