Wild superstar Kirill Kaprizov is a perfect face of the franchise: ‘He gets it’
The star wing will represent Minnesota at All-Star Weekend starting in the Skills Competition on Friday
ST. PAUL — It’s not uncommon to see Kirill Kaprizov still shooting pucks more than 30 minutes after his teammates start leaving the ice at TRIA Rink in downtown St. Paul. The fact that most practices are open to the public allows fans to see that unmatched work ethic firsthand.
As veteran Marcus Foligno put it earlier this season, Kaprizov is a legitimate superstar in every sense of the word but has the commitment level of someone scrapping to make an NHL roster.
That explains why coach Dean Evason handpicked Kaprizov to wear the “A” on his jersey last week with Foligno and fellow alternate captain Matt Dumba out of the lineup.
“He leads us in so many ways,” Evason said. “You watch him out there, there’s no float to his game. He’s full bore every single time he steps on the ice and he has fun doing it. It’s great for a guy of his stature to have that willingness to compete.”
That willingness to compete will be on display at All-Star Weekend in Sunrise, Florida. It marks the second straight season Kaprizov is representing the Minnesota Wild, starting in Friday’s Skills Competition and then in Saturday’s All-Star Game, now a six-team, 3-on-3 tournament. While some players shy away from these types of extracurricular activities, Kaprizov seems to genuinely enjoy the annual spectacle.
“It’s an amazing honor to be selected again,” he said last month. “Obviously, I’m very happy.”
After participating in the Breakaway Challenge last year, Kaprizov will compete in the Fastest Skater competition on Friday. Wherever they put him would have been OK with the winger, a good example of the selflessness with which Kaprizov carries himself.
"We know it firsthand because when things aren’t going (well), he wants to know what he can do to help,” Evason said. “We can put him in any situation, anywhere and he’s like, ‘OK.’ ”
As much as his selflessness has helped Kaprizov endear himself to the coaching staff, his tenacity has helped him gain the respect of his teammates.
“He’s the engine of our team,” Foligno said. “If our best player is doing that every night, the guys are going to be lifted from it. It’s who he is. He’s a talented kid from Russia who’s going to be a superstar for a long, long time.”
It’s pretty clear that Kaprizov is a perfect face of the franchise. Even if he doesn’t like to be the center of attention.
“He doesn’t like the spotlight,” Evason said. “He doesn’t want to be interviewed and I don’t blame him. He just wants to go about his business. He wants to play the game because he loves it.”
That passion is exemplified in the moments after practice when Kaprizov stays late to work on his game. Though that sight would be enough for most fans to witness, Kaprizov has been known to take it a step further, signing autographs for every kid that sticks around to watch him.
“He gets it,” Evason said. “He gets who he is. He gets what he’s doing. He even talks to (reporters) a little bit now, right? He’s just a real professional and we’re excited he’s representing the Minnesota Wild.”
NHL All-Star Weekend
Schedule of events for the NHL’s All-Star Weekend in Sunrise, Florida.
Friday: Skills competition (Splash Shot, Pitch ‘n’ Puck, Tendy Tandem, Fastest Skater, Hardest Shot, Breakaway Challenge, Accuracy Shooting), 6-9 p.m., ESPN
Saturday: All-Star Game (three-game, 3-on-3 tournament), 2-5 p.m., ABC
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