Kaprizov Shining In Russia
Image courtesy of Russian Ice Hockey FederationEntering the season, Kaprizov was Minnesota's top prospect, according to ESPN's Corey Pronman. In his annual "Top 120 prospect rankings" (ESPN Insider), Pronman had Kaprizov at number 43, three spots higher than Wild 2016 first round pick Luke Kunin. In his rankings, Pronman says of Kaprizov, "Where he really stands out is in hockey sense and puck skills. Kaprizov has really quick hands, makes tough passes seem easy and can control the flow of the offense from the perimeter."
But it was a slow start for Kaprizov on his new team, Salavat Yulaev, as he just tallied a pair of points in the team's first seven games. But in the 26 games that have followed, Kaprizov is averaging nearly a point per game (12 goals and 12 assists) thanks in large part to a stretch where he scored at least one point in 14 out of 15 games. His hot hand now has him in impressive company for an under-20 player in KHL history.
Just before the 2015-16 season, Kaprizov signed a three year extension to play in the KHL, despite being drafted by Minnesota in the fifth round just a few months prior. He told the Hockey Writers a year ago that while he would like to play for Minnesota one day, he is committed to finishing out that contract first (albeit, this was when he was with Metallurg, not Salavet). If that is the case, the summer of 2018 is when he would likely make the jump from Russia to the United States.
However, given the lack of skill the Wild have in the pipeline, they might be more pressed to get Kaprizov to sign his entry level contract this upcoming summer. If he can't make the Minnesota roster, he would be a welcome addition to the Iowa Wild, a team that is trying to not finish last in the division since they relocated to Iowa three seasons ago.
But while we wait for Kaprizov to make his decision on coming over, be sure to keep your eye on him in the KHL (Salavet is currently fourth in the Eastern Conference) making highlight reel goals on a weekly basis. You will also no doubt be able to catch him in the upcoming World Junior Championships next month (December 26-January 5), as he tries to bounce back from a less than stellar performance in the 2016 tournament with Russia (1G-2A in 7 games, Russia lost in the gold medal game).
Hopefully, these brief glimpses of Kaprizov won't be the last for Wild fans. With any luck, Minnesota will be able to bring the 19 year old over to the United States where his game will continue to flourish.
Big if, but its nice to dream.
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