After a long-distance relationship that sometimes looked as if it might never get off the ground, prized prospect Kirill Kaprizov has arrived.
That means Minnesota Wild fans can slowly start to let their guard down.
While the NHL has yet to announce a start date for the upcoming season, the 23-year-old Kaprizov has officially began the process of acclimating to his new home here in Minnesota. The 5-foot-11, 200-pound left winger traveled from his native Russia earlier this week, landed in the Twin Cities, and is going through the testing protocol needed for him to start skating at TRIA Rink in downtown St. Paul.
In theory, if Kaprizov continues to return negative tests in the coming days, he could be on the ice with his teammates as soon as next week. That would be a big step for 2015 fifth-round draft pick, who has emerged as a superstar in the Kontinental Hockey League over the past few seasons, and will be expected to make an immediate impact in the NHL.
Still, Wild general manager Bill Guerin has tried to temper expectations. He doesn’t want Kaprizov to feel like he has to carry the weight of the franchise on his shoulders. Especially considering Kaprizov is arriving in a foreign country in the middle of a pandemic.
“We are going to help him find a place to live and kind of get situated hockey-wise with our training staff,” Guerin said. “It’s definitely going to be tougher than it would be normally.”
Luckily for Kaprizov, he feels at home on the ice, and getting to skate with veterans like Jared Spurgeon, Ryan Suter, and Marcus Foligno, among others, at TRIA Rink this month should help him feel more comfortable.
“You immediately have 20 new friends and they all look after each other,” Guerin said. “Am I worried? Just knowing Kirill now and his personality and his English and how good it is, or how much better it is than he portrays, I’m not really worried about him.”
It doesn’t sound like Kaprizov is too worried either. He got to meet Wild coach Dean Evason and some of his teammates during a brief trip to Minnesota in August, and now that he’s back, he’s ready to hit the ice.
“I know everybody’s waiting for me, and I can’t wait to put on the jersey myself, ” Kaprizov said through his translator this summer. “I am really eager and excited to join the team.”