Being average in the NHL is like being the middle child in a family of 3…
The older sibling got all of the attention when they were younger, including 370 pictures for every first moment and a fully executed baby book. The younger one still gets all of the baby-talk and sympathy from adults, who just want to help “the baby of the family” keep up with everyone else. Meanwhile, you’re stuck in the middle where nobody cares about you. You keep your mouth shut, tow the family line, and cause as little fuss as possible.
The Minnesota Wild have lived the middle-child NHL life for the better part of a decade.
Landing Zach Parise and Ryan Suter back in 2012 was supposed to make us the older sibling… the one who looked down on the other kids. A certain Minnesota-famous radio producer uttered the term “Skatriots” at one point and he wasn’t the only one with such thoughts. That’s not how it worked out, however. Those bloated 13-year contracts, paired with a stagnant salary cap, has made it difficult for the Wild to form a Stanley Cup caliber team around their aquired superstars (at the time).
While bringing in those two seemed to hinder efforts to push through the 1st round of the NHL Playoffs, they made it even harder to lose a boatload of games, miss the playoffs by 17 miles, and be forced to hit the reset button. As the Edmonton Oilers were scraping the bottom of the standings year in and year out, stacking the highest-end of NHL Draft talent (Nurse – 2013, Draisaitl – 2014, McDavid – 2015), the Wild haven’t had a first pick inside the top-10 since 2012.
You can see the difference in talent when you leave the top-10, just by looking at the Wild draft history.
- 2010: 9th Overall – Mikael Granlund
- 2011: 10th Overall – Jonas Brodin
- 2012: 7th Overall – Matt Dumba
- 2013: No Pick in 1st Round
- 2014: 18th Overall – Alex Tuch
- 2015: 20th Overall – Joel Erikkson Ek
- 2016: 15th Overall – Luke Kunin
Without a pick in the top-3, it’s going to be nearly impossible to get a star like Draisaitl or McDavid, who now both play on the same team… but you still have access to plenty of great talent inside the top-10. As you can see from drafts more recent, it gets a lot harder to hit a homerun once you drop to the back-half of the first round.
UNLESS… you throw a russian dart in the 5th round of the 2015 draft and select a sparcely known kid out of Moscow, named Kirill Kaprizov…
…and end up with a future NHL superstar 4.5 years later, according to his 2020 KHL peers (via ESPN):
Which KHL player will be the next big star in North America?
Vyacheslav Gretsky: Kirill Kaprizov.
Alexander Semin: Kaprizov.
Stephane Da Costa: Kaprizov, I would say. Most people probably say that. Who else is there? [Thinks for a bit] No, I’d probably just say Kaprizov right now, he’s a really big star. He’s really good with the puck, he protects the puck well, he has good vision. He’s overall a really great player.
Nigel Dawes: Kaprizov. I think everyone sees it. It’s kind of a no-brainer. He’s a great player, he’s done a lot already in his young career. I’m sure he’ll face some challenges going over to North America, but the way he plays the game and the type of guy he is, and his character, I think he’ll have a lot of success in the NHL.
Ilya Sorokin: Kaprizov. His hockey intellect is very high. He has a good shot, as well as good vision.
Chay Genoway: Kirill Kaprizov, obviously, I think has a really good chance. Sorokin, if he ever decides to go. There’s a lot of good goalies in this league. Another guy who might fly under the radar a little bit is Denis Zernov from Avangard Omsk. That guy has a chance; he can play at both ends of the rink
The Wild have tried to temper expectations on their future star, who should hit the Xcel Energy Center Ice for the 2020-21 season, but that’s going to be a fruitless effort with reports like this coming out. Those who play with Kaprizov can see how special he is. Hell, if you watched any of the highlight video above, you can see it too.
Minnesota has been waiting for a talent like this since re-entering the NHL 2 decades ago…. could we really be just months away from seeing our wildest dreams finally play out right in front of us? Could Kirill Kaprizov save the Parise and Suter signings from being 2 of the worst in Minnesota history; turning the ultimate handcuff into a much-needed veteran presence, to help a young Russian star lead a desperate Wild fanbase to the Stanley Cup opportunity they’ve been long salivating for?
Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fa