In case you missed it live, on DVR, on replay, on Twitter or through your Wild-crazed coworker at the water cooler, the Minnesota Wild had their season opener last night against the Los Angeles Kings. No big deal, the Wild came back from a 3-1 deficit to win 4-3 in OT.
Oh, and you might be interested to know that this unsung fifth-round draft pick from 2015 made his NHL debut. He did pretty well from all accounts.
Yes, the NHL and Wild debut of Kirill Kaprizov (aka “The Thrill,” “KapriSun,” “Dolla Bill Kirill”) will be much talked about for a while, and hopefully fondly remembered as the beginning of a Calder award-winning season and a hall of fame career. But he isn’t the first Wild player to score a goal in his debut, have a multi-point game in his first time on NHL ice, or even net the game-winner for Minnesota in his first career game.
So how does Kirill Kaprizov’s one goal, two assist, overtime-game-winning effort rank in Wild or NHL history?
Too many player to count have scored a goal or an assist in their first game, but only 235 in NHL history have multi-point games, according to the NHL’s official records site. Three players, all from the pre-merger era, hold the record with five. Harry Hyland and Joe Malone of Montreal each scored five goals, while Al Hill of the 1976-77 Philadelphia Flyers had two goals and three assists. More recently, Toronto’s Auston Matthews became the only player since 1979 to earn four points in his debut - all goals.
Kaprizov’s three-point game matches current names like Derek Stepan and Ryan Poehling, each who earned hat tricks in their debuts, as well as Jonathan Huberdeau and former Minnesota Wild center Ryan Donato, who each equalled Kaprizov’s one goal, two assist effort in their first career games.
How about all-time greats like Mario Lemieux, Adam Oates, Kevin Stevens, Rod Brind’Amour or Mike Modano? Kaprizov eclipsed them all by a point, as each had a goal and an assist in the opening to their NHL careers. The “Great One” himself *only* had a single assist in his debut, but he went on to do pretty well, scoring 10 points in his first six NHL games.
As for players to score their first goal in overtime, the field narrows considerably. Kaprizov is only the third player all-time to achieve that feat.
Per #NHLStats, Kaprizov becomes the third player to score an overtime goal in their #NHL debut (regular season and playoffs): Nick Knott, 11/2/1941; Tim Sweeney, 10/4/1990. #mnwild— Minnesota Wild PR (@mnwildPR) January 15, 2021
The list of players to score their first career goal while wearing the Forest Green and Iron Range Red has some big names, and some names that might make you say, “oh yeah, I forgot he played for the Wild.”
The biggest Wild name of all, Marian Gaborik, scored the Wild’s only goal in a 3-1 loss to the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim on October 6th, 2000. It just so happens that his first NHL goal was also the first goal in the Wild’s history as well.
Pascal Dupuis also got his first career goal in his first career game during the Wild’s inaugural season, though much later in the year. Dupuis scored one of two Wild tallies in a 4-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks on April 2, 2001.
And while there are recent players like Mikael Granlund, Joel Eriksson Ek and Gerry Mayhew (as well as a throwback name like Carson McMillan) who found the net in their NHL debuts, none of them scored the game-winning goal. In fact, only two Wild players in team history had the deciding goal in their NHL debut: Rickard Wallin in 2002, and Chad Rau in 2012.
Wallin went on to play a total of 19 games over two seasons, though his six goal, four assist total over that span was surprisingly good. But in 2005, Wallin was assigned to Farjestad in Sweden and he’d never play another game for the Wild, though he did play 60 games for the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2009-10.
Rau would end up scoring a second goal for the Wild over nine games in 2012, but was reassigned to Houston later that season, and also never appeared in a Wild sweater.
As for multi-point debuts, Kaprizov’s three-point night is the best in team history. In fact, there’s only one other player to achieve a multi-point, first career game: current Wild taxi-squad member Louis Belpedio, who earned two assists in his first (and only) appearance during the 2017-18 season.
Three big Wild names were blanked in their debut, but didn’t have to wait long to make an impact:
- The long-time “Kaptain” Mikko Koivu scored his first career goal in his second NHL game - and like Gaborik, it came against the Mighty Ducks.
- It took Jason Zucker one extra game to earn a multi-point performance, earning two assists in his second career start against the Kings.
- Brent Burns also was held off his debut scoresheet, but the talented defenseman got going quickly, scoring a goal and two assists over his first four games in a Wild uniform.