The debut of highly touted Russian prospect Kirill Kaprizov was nothing short of spectacular for the Minnesota Wild this season, as his excellence earned him a nomination for the league’s rookie of the year award (Calder Trophy). At twenty-four years of age, Kirill Kaprizov led the Wild in scoring with fifty-one points in fifty-five games played, including a team-high twenty-seven goals. In the postseason against the powerhouse Vegas Golden Knights, Kaprizov scored two goals and registered one assist in the seven game series for three points.
During the season, Kaprizov drew a team-high twenty-five penalties to only eight taken, and had a giveaway to takeaway ratio of thirty-one to twenty-seven. He was also +10 +/- wise, which was tied with Nico Sturm for fifth highest on the team, trailing only Joel Eriksson Ek (+16), Marcus Foligno (+19), Ian Cole (+21), and Carson Soucy (+22). In terms of AB, he finished with the fourth-highest score on the team with a +6.89 score, behind only Eriksson Ek (+9.18), Foligno (+7.28), and Soucy (+6.96). Kaprizov’s immediate impact helped the Wild finish third in the West Division behind the two best teams in the league in Vegas and Colorado.
When we compared Kaprizov’s rookie year to his fellow contrymen’s, the results were astounding. He had the second highest rookie AB score by a Russian player in the history of our database, trailing only Valeri Nichushkin’s +11.82 score in 2013-14. Kaprizov’s +6.89 score was higher than Artemi Panarin’s Calder winning +4.31, 2018-19 Hart Trophy Winner Nikita Kucherov’s +1.50, Evgeny Kuznetsov’s -1.11, and Vladimir Tarasenko’s +4.32. All of these players outside of Panarin and Nichushkin have won a Stanley Cup, although Nichushkin has a good chance with the Avalanche this season. Kaprizov’s +6.89 score was also the best score of the 2020-21 rookie class, beating fellow Calder Trophy nominee Jason Robertson’s +5.81. Despite being three years older than Robertson, we believe Kaprizov is the clear-cut Calder winner based on the success the Wild had, and the large amount he contributed to that success.
Kaprizov’s contract expired after the Game 7 loss to the Golden Knights, and the arbitration analyzer has him right in between two of the best left-wingers in the NHL in Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog and Jets playmaker Nikolaj Ehlers. This means the comparable window for Kaprizov’s contract based on the arbitration analyzer is 5.5-6 million AAV. The Wild will also need to work out deals for RFAs Joel Eriksson Ek, Kevin Fiala, as well as UFAs Nick Bonino, Marcus Johansson, Ian Cole, and Nick Bjugstad. The three UFA’s clear up $11.8 million in cap space, and it will be interesting to see what the Wild do with this cap flexibility. With top prospects Matthew Boldy and Marco Rossi nearing NHL-ready, the 2021-22 Minnesota Wild are going to be a very interesting team to watch in the future, as Kirill Kaprizov will look to continue his ascension into NHL stardom. Much more to come.