It is something that has been repeated again and again, so much so that you probably already know what’s coming before you stop reading this sentence: the Minnesota Wild have been in need of a true superstar since the beginning of the franchise.
Something that has been weaved into the fabric of this franchise is the acknowledgement of a mediocre team in the standings as they play an ultra-defensive style of hockey. A sentiment that might fall deaf on the ears of any neutral observers, or anyone outside of Minnesota’s borders, has simply become the Wild’s reputation and signifier.
Well throw that all out of your second-story window and let it crash down into the comically large dumpster filled with comically inflated bags of trash. Kirill Kaprizov is here to take all the pain away and stop the bullying from fans of other teams that want some numb nerve to flick.
We have read endlessly about the highlights, the jaw-dropping movements he can make on the ice, the perfect fit on the lineup that has been catered to his need for offensive playmaking since he took his first NHL shift back in January. It has been just under three months of bliss. Kaprizov has just raised the floor and ceiling for this Minnesotan season with his 14 goals and 31 points through 37 games. My need for some raw talent to be molded and shaped and played with into this rising superstar that is drawing the attention from every corner of the hockey universe to give the Wild the respect they have deserved this season.
It is an endless stream of entertainment pouring out of Kaprizov’s gloves. Even off the ice he never disappoints and never appears to be in a bad mood.
This man cannot stop pulling my eyes in his direction. I never want to stop watching Kaprizov. The Destroyer of Defenses has been the antidote to Minnesota Wild Hockey from the past decade. A franchise that has put their defense on a pedestal, for the rest of the league’s coaches to gawk at and wonder why their group cannot do the same, but also floundering in this weird world of offense, has now drafted and signed their hero that not only doesn’t stop moving and working his ass off every shift, but cannot stop smiling.
In the world of a sport that congratulates players with a stern pat on the back if they put their head down and “work hard”, to have a player that is nothing but the essence of joy and a complete hockey lunatic on the ice, feels selfish. Kaprizov is that rare mix of someone capable of having fun while also being the best player during a game and bewildering opponents with his skill. Checking off the boxes as he smiles at the helpless defenders, wishing them good luck with one sly flick of his stick and being full of niceties all the same. It feels selfish.
A superstar is on our hands, of the same ilk as Carolina Hurricanes’ winger Andrei Svechnikov, as someone that is no less entertaining no matter where he is in the arena. Kaprizov is already singlehandedly making the Wild an interesting team to watch and at the age of 23, will no doubt attract more neutral observers as his popularity only increases.
Hell, even acquiring players like Kevin Fiala—I know, it wasn’t the current front office that did that—and drafting undersized all-skill players like Marco Rossi and Marat Khusnutdinov, demonstrate an acknowledgement of need in some areas beyond winning games. Of course that is not the only reason those players were drafted, as they are going to contribute to winning games more than some brutes on blades, but it’s a little quirk that Minnesota is building a highly-entertaining team that can eventually break the Wild archetype that old regimes have built.
Kaprizov is just the beginning; Kaprizov forever.