Marat Khusnutdinov MIN skating 1

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- According to newest Minnesota Wild forward Marat Khusnutdinov, if hockey doesn't work out for teammate Kirill Kaprizov, he might have a future in taxi driving.

The fellow Russia-born teammate has been escorting Khusnutdinov around since his arrival to the United States and Minnesota on March 10.

"[Kaprizov's] a good guy and good driver. Free taxi," Khusnutdinov said with a combination of broken English and through a translator. "Only positive [is] 'Kapriz' helps me every day. Kapriz being here helps a lot. Explains how to do things, certain nuances, pregame, what to eat, what time, all those little tips you can take maybe a full season to learn. Having Kirill helps tremendously.

"I've been super surprised at how welcoming and helpful the guys are even with the language barrier. Of course, it's definitely easier to speak a lot of it with Kirill just because we speak the same language, but for me it's been amazing to see all the guys ask about me and help and offer rides, to introduce me to people. So, it's been super, super amazing. The reception's been awesome.

"I can't say that it's going to be easy, but I think my legs and my head will probably make it into this league."

Khusnutdinov signed a two-year, entry-level contract with the Wild on Feb. 28 that runs through next season. He will make his NHL debut when Minnesota hosts the Anaheim Ducks at Xcel Energy Center on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; BSWIX, BSN, BSW).

"I think Marat is the type of player that can help us right now," Wild general manager Bill Guerin said after the signing. "All the assets that he has, he's a solid two-way player. He's got speed, he's tenacious. Those are the things we're looking for. We want to make sure we put him in a situation that he can succeed in. And timing of when he gets into the lineup is going to be important, but he will eventually get in the lineup."

Selected in the second round (No. 37) of the 2020 NHL Draft, Khustnutdinov had 75 points (22 goals, 53 assists) in 162 games over four seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League from 2020-24. The 21-year-old Moscow native had 20 points (six goals, 14 assists) in 49 games for HK Sochi this season and became team captain after he was acquired in a trade with St. Petersburg SKA on Oct. 10.

Khusnutdinov has spent the last week acclimating to the Wild and North America. Following three flights and 16 hours of travel, he has practiced with the team twice and could be ready for his debut.

Marat Khusnutdinov MIN close up 1

"He's certainly going to get an opportunity here in the short term," Wild coach John Hynes said. "It just depends on just trying to help him just get acclimated and give him the best chance to be able to be successful. But he looked good out there, good skater, good shot, so we're excited."

Kaprizov, 26, is familiar with the transition from the KHL to NHL. A fifth-round pick (No. 135) in the 2015 NHL Draft, Kaprizov played six seasons in Russia before signing a two-year, entry-level contract with the Wild on July 13, 2020. He made his NHL debut Jan. 14, 2021, a season capped off with him being awarded the Calder Trophy voted as NHL rookie of the year after he led all first-year players in goals (27), points (51), power-play goals (eight) and shots on goal (157). He was second in even-strength points (38) and power-play points (13) and his plus-10 rating tied for third.

"I never played with him or against him," Kaprizov said. "When I played in KHL, he was in junior league. I just saw him a couple times on the TV. He's pretty fast. He's (got) good vision, I think. Good stickhandle too. I can't say now because I never see live how he play, just on TV. It's different watching on TV, you know? He's a good player, just give him a little bit of time and we can see what he can do.

Kaprizov noted that when Khusnutdinov debuts Thursday, it will be a treat for both the fans and the player.

"My debut was different because it was (the COVID-19 pandemic) year; no fans, just two teams playing against each other and it wasn't loud and the rink was different," Kaprizov said. "It's nice for him to have a debut like this. I don't know when he starts playing but when he starts … especially if it will be at home in the home rink, because our rink's so loud and fans can help him. Good for him."