I’m not usually in the habit of reading about the thoughts of players in the Kontinental Hockey League — the 24-team pro league with clubs in six different countries — but when one of the players surveyed is Wild draft pick Kirill Kaprizov all the rules change.
ESPN talked to seven players in the league, asking them various questions about the league and hockey in general. But the most relevant and interesting question to Wild fans came when this question was posed:
Six of the players picked Kaprizov. The other player is, of course, Kaprizov himself.
“Thank you, we’ll see,” Kaprizov said when learning that he was the unanimous choice of his polled peers.
Some of the kudos:
Stephane Da Costa: 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.
Kaprizov, playing for CSKA Moscow, leads the KHL with 23 goals (in 44 games). He was a fifth-round pick of the Wild in 2015 and is still just 22. His potential arrival in Minnesota — on track for as soon as next season — is the stuff of dreams for Wild fans starved for a star and staring at the prospect of a rebuild in the midst of a tumble into mediocrity.
New Wild GM Bill Guerin went to see Kaprizov in Moscow in early December and came away impressed.
“He’s extremely talented,” Guerin said. “He made plays. He’s not afraid to go play in traffic. There’s a lot to like.”
The fact that every player polled picked him as the next KHL-to-NHL star doesn’t guarantee anything, but it doesn’t hurt.