It's unfair to credit Kirill Kaprizov for everything that has gone right for the Wild. He doesn't play on every line. He doesn't make saves. He doesn't select who's on the power play or who takes part in the shootout.
It might seem like it, but he doesn't.
Yet there's a sense that Kaprizov is why the Wild has resembled a finely tuned machine, particularly during this homestand.
The Wild on Tuesday completed a 5-0 homestand with a 3-0 victory over Arizona with Kaprizov contributing four goals and two assists. No goals for Kaprizov on Tuesday, just an assist. The Wild is 12-4-1 since a COVID outbreak led to a two-week break and Kaprizov leads the team — and all NHL rookies — with 25 points. He has a hat trick. He has game-winning goals. He has moves. He has imagination. He has our attention.
So is the Wild's success solely tied to No. 97? Wild coach Dean Evason, during a Zoom conference this week, pointed out there's a collective thrust that has propelled the Wild to its current status. Don't know if Dean is going to win that one right now.
Kaprizov's impact will lead to jersey sales — and maybe songs written about him — but a lot of things are going right for this club that he has little influence over.
Jordan Greenway's game is starting to grow into his 6-6, 240-pound frame. He's shooting more and scoring more. He was the team's leading scorer before Kaprizov got comfortable and started dominating. Greenway is becoming a nuisance for opposing defenses and he'll only get better as he gains savvy to go with his skill.
Joel Eriksson Ek has been a hyped prospect in recent years and now is showing why. And the best way to see that is how he ends up in entanglements with opponents. Eriksson Ek is a steady, hard-nosed player who is playing like one of the best defensive forwards in the league, and it's aggravating other teams. He's also a factor on faceoffs, and his 11 goals make him a two-way force.
I don't think Kaprizov has sprinkled pixie dust on those two. They are evolving on their own.
The Wild isn't allowing 2.37 goals a game because Kaprizov is in goal. The team has had pretty good defense in recent seasons (last year being an exception) and entered Tuesday seventh in the league in goals allowed. One big reason why is the combination of Kaapo Kahkonen and Cam Talbot, for now, are significantly better than their predecessors. Talbot performing well is a significant development for the Wild, especially when teams are basically playing every other day and need two goalies.
If there is anyone who could use a boost from Kaprizov, it's Zach Parise. He is valiantly trying to be productive at 36 but is seeing his ice time shrink.
The two who are benefiting most from Kaprizov's presence are his linemates, Mats Zuccarello and Victor Rask.
Zuccarello fancies himself as a playmaker and knows how and when to get the puck to Kaprizov for his next jaw-dropping feat, hence the 14 assists for Mats. Rask was an unpopular addition two seasons ago but is one good game away from passing his point total from all of last season. That line has become one of the more productive ones in the league, and opponents have to focus on them. It's easy to see how the three thrive because of each other.
The 2015 draft yielded Kaprizov, Greenway and Eriksson Ek, and the Wild is beginning to reap the benefits. Those are three forwards who impact the game in different ways.
There's a reason why the Wild was pushing the state to open up Xcel Energy Center to a small number of fans: It was booted from the bubble last season, failed to make the postseason the year before and were eliminated in the first round of the three postseasons before that. Kaprizov is the young star on a team that's suddenly worth watching. And fans can see it in person starting on April 5 against Colorado.