Wild are Kirill Kaprizov’s team now. ‘He’s a superstar,’ Bill Guerin says.
He put together the best individual campaign in franchise history, setting single season records with 47 goals, 61 assists, and 108 points.
Kirill Kaprizov felt it every time he hopped over the boards. After signing an unprecedented 5-year, $45 million contract with the Wild last offseason, Kaprizov went a couple of weeks without finding the back of the net, and he knew the fans were none too pleased with his lack of production.
“It started slow,” Kaprizov said through a translator this week. “Some people hated me in the beginning.”
“I think couple games, no?” he said in English. “I think people want to see me score goals.”
Though it’s fair to assume nobody actually hated him, it’s neither here nor there at this point. Not after Kaprizov put together the best individual season in franchise history, setting records in 2021-22 with 47 goals, 61 assists and 108 points.
He already is an NHL superstar at 25 years old. Just don’t tell him that.
“Maybe you think I’m superstar,” Kaprizov said in English. “I don’t think like that.”
Everyone else does, including general manager Bill Guerin, who has seen his fair share .
“He’s a superstar,” Guerin said. “I don’t know what his ceiling is.”
No one does. Because it’s so high.
From the moment Kaprizov finally scored his first goal of the season during a Nov. 2 win over the Ottawa Senators, he showed no signs of slowing down. He was a cheat code on the ice, using his incredible edges to create space out of nowhere and his laser beam of a shot to befuddle opposing goaltenders.
All the while Kaprizov showed a propensity to step up in the biggest moments. As coach Dean Evason noted many times this season, it’s not like Kaprizov was padding his stats in garbage time of a blowout win or loss.
“He’s unbelievable,” Evason said a couple of weeks ago during the first round of the playoffs. “It’d be nice to have 20 of him.”
If the Wild actually had 20 clones of Kirill Kaprizov, they would win the Stanley Cup running away. He’s that good.
Instead, the Wild are watching the rest of the playoffs from home after falling 4-2 to the St. Louis Blues in the first round.
“Very disappointing,” Kaprizov said through a translator. “You still don’t really believe that it’s over.”
It wasn’t for a lack of effort on Kaprizov’s part. He was outstanding throughout the first round, scoring seven goals in six games.
It was a much better output from Kaprizov compared to last playoffs when he struggled mightily in the first round against the Vegas Golden Knights That was on his mind heading into this playoffs.
“It was something near the end of the season I was thinking about more,” Kaprizov said through a translator. “I definitely wanted to focus more. Just getting the right mindset to have a really good run and put my best foot forward. I definitely felt like I met the moment.”
No doubt about it. His most impressive performance of this playoffs came in Game 5 when he took over the game with a pair of goals before the Wild fell apart down the stretch.
“He tried putting this team on his back,” Guerin said. “He literally tried to put this team on his back and carry them, like, ‘You know what guys? I got it. Follow me.’ He’s become a big-time leader on our team.”
It wasn’t enough. No matter how hard he tried, Kaprizov couldn’t carry the Wild into the second round. Not by himself.
“We obviously need to improve,” Kaprizov said through a translator. “Each player can learn from their mistakes. We will definitely gain experience from this. Obviously we want to do better.”
There’s reason to believe the Wild will be better moving forward. Especially with Kaprizov leading the charge.
In the meantime, though, Kaprizov plans to head back to his native Russia this offseason. He’s excited to spend time with family and friends, do some traveling around the country and start preparing for next season.
As for the fans who supposedly hated him, Kaprizov is feeling the love now.
“They’ve been great,” Kaprizov said through a translator. “They’re the reasons I’m here. Just the other day we were at a team event at a restaurant and we had a bunch of people come over. Someone who spoke Russian came over to me and we had a chat .I love the fans. Any chance I get a chance to see them, I make sure I make time for them.”
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