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Kaprizov's play for Wild inspires 'Dollar Bill Kirill' nickname, T-shirt

Forward leads NHL rookies, Minnesota with 17 points, impresses teammates on, off ice

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / Columnist

Best of Kaprizov

Best highlights of Kirill Kaprizov's season thus far

Watch the best highlights of Minnesota Wild rookie forward Kirill Kaprizov's season thus far

  • 02:50 •

To understand how big the Minnesota Wild have cashed in with Kirill Kaprizov, look at the white T-shirt the players wore Friday night.

On the chest in green was a drawing of the rookie forward's face, wearing sunglasses with dollar signs on the lenses. Below that was a play on the nickname defenseman Matt Dumba gave him for being money with the puck on his stick: "Dollar Dollar Bill Kirill."

"It was unexpected," Kaprizov said Tuesday. "You know, I heard some of the guys were talking about potentially making a shirt, and I walked into the locker room and everyone was wearing them. Of course, it makes you feel good and a little shy even, but I liked it. It's very cool."

Tweet from @mnwild: we don���t want to be dramatic...but this is the most perfect shirt we have ever seen.

It's more than a fashion statement. It's a statement about the impact Kaprizov has made on the Wild and how his teammates feel about him already.

With 17 points (six goals, 11 assists) in 19 games, the 23-year-old leads NHL rookies and Minnesota in scoring.

He scored eight points (three goals, five assists) during a six-game winning streak that ended with a 5-4 overtime loss to the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena on Monday. The teams play again there Wednesday (10 p.m. ET; ATTSN-RM, FS-WI, FS-N+, NHL.TV). The Golden Knights lead the Honda West Division with 27 points, one ahead of the St. Louis Blues and two ahead of the Wild.

"Dollar Bill Kirill" has given Minnesota full value.

"We watched tape obviously, and we've heard about him for a few years clearly, what his skill level was," Wild coach Dean Evason said. "But what's been exciting for us and certainly for me is to watch him interacting with his teammates and how he conducts himself on and off the ice."

Kaprizov, selected in the fifth round (No. 135) of the 2015 NHL Draft, signed a two-year entry level contract with the Wild on July 13, 2020, after banking several accomplishments in and for his native Russia.

He scored in overtime when the Olympic Athletes from Russia defeated Germany 4-3 in the gold medal game at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics. At 20, he was the youngest player on the roster.

He scored 230 points (113 goals, 117 assists) in 293 games in six seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League. He led the league in goals in each of his last two seasons, with 30 in 57 games in 2018-19 and 33 in 57 games in 2019-20 for CSKA.

The transition to the NHL has been smooth, despite the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, including a delayed start and no preseason games. He scored three points (one goal, two assists) in his NHL debut, a 4-3 win at the Los Angeles Kings on Jan. 14.

"It's obviously very important for me and for any hockey player to make sure you get that confidence, that first goal, and to just make sure you fit in and you belong here," Kaprizov said. "But after that, you kind of get situated and you really don't think about it. You just play the game and you play as hard as you can."

Kaprizov has stood out with his skating and skill.

"I think his ability to escape situations, where you think he's hemmed in, you think he's pinned up against the wall, where you think he has nowhere to go off of the rush, he seems to find a way to sneak by defenders and separate after that with his foot speed," Evason said. "And his passing ability is real strong obviously."

Maybe too strong for such a gifted goal-scorer.

"I think there's a balance between shooting and passing," Kaprizov said. "At the end of the day, I just try to make the right play on the ice, but I have been told in the past by my father and previous coaches to shoot a little bit more, and I personally would like to try to shoot a little more. Sometimes I can make an extra pass, but I give you my word: I'll try to shoot more and score more goals."

Kaprizov speaks little English, and teammates like forward Mats Zuccarello speak little of his native language. ("He only knows bad words in Russian," Kaprizov said.) Kaprizov also has been unable to explore his home city, let alone road cities like Las Vegas, because of the pandemic.

But he's focused on hockey and has developed chemistry with his teammates anyway.

"In hockey terms, he does not need a translator, especially in video, just pointing and showing and talking," Evason said. "We've mentioned a few times that it's difficult in groups obviously. Maybe he doesn't feel comfortable to speak. But he understands very well, speaks very well, when you talk to him 1-on-1, when it's more of a casual situation."

Perhaps his teammates made the shirts because they sense he'd give them the shirt off his back.

"It's not necessarily his offensive production that he's excited about," Evason said. "It's the team having success. You watch him. Not only after he scores a goal but after someone else scores a goal, or on the bench, he's just as excited."


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