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Post-season Send Off: Kirill Kaprizov

Wild forward re-wrote the team's single-season record book during a remarkable second NHL campaign

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe / Wild.com

Kirill Kaprizov started the 2021-22 season by going eight consecutive games without a goal. 

It's hard to believe that in a season where Kaprizov essentially re-wrote the team's offensive record book that he went the first 10 percent of the campaign without lighting the lamp even a single time. 

"It started slow and some people hated me in the beginning," Kaprizov said through a translator last week. "As it went on, I think my play got better, the team's play got better. We were able to turn things around and then if you even compare it to last season, I think it was a lot more stable and steady this year as opposed to last year."

But was there really hate? Kaprizov smiled and chuckled a bit before answering the follow-up in English.

Video: Season wrap up: Kaprizov

"I think couple games, first couple games, no? No can't score. Talk too much," Kaprizov said. "People want to see me score goals, you know."

Needless to say, Kaprizov gave the people what they wanted from an individual standpoint this season. Slow start aside, the points were still coming during that stretch to start the year, as Kaprizov dished out six assists during the first eight games before finally lighting the lamp Nov. 2 against Ottawa.

He'd score the next time out against Pittsburgh, and again two games later in Arizona. 

All of the sudden, Kaprizov's record-breaking season was off and running. He'd play in 81 games during his sophomore season in the NHL, tallying 47 goals and 61 assists for 108 points, becoming the first player in Wild history to cross the century mark in points. 

Heck, he was the first player to reach 90 points and broke Marian Gaborik's old franchise mark for single-season points (82) by the end of March, with a full month of regular season games still remaining. 

Sitting at 83 points with 16 games remaining, the math was easy ... average about a point per game the rest of the way and Kaprizov would at least threaten 100 points, right?

Over those final 16 games, Kaprizov not only averaged a point per game, he averaged an assist per game to go with nine goals, closing the season on an absolute tear with nine multi-point efforts over that stretch.

Video: CGY@MIN: Kaprizov records PPG for 46th at :44 of OT

These weren't just throwaway games for the Wild either ... Minnesota needed to pile up points to earn home ice in the First Round playoff series against the St. Louis Blues. 

The end of the regular season was just a snapshot in time, but it sure seemed indicative of a player taking his rightful place as one of the NHL's best players.

"He's a superstar. I don't know what his ceiling is, but it is high," said Wild General Manager Bill Guerin. 

And while earning home ice in that series was unable to swing it the Wild's way, Kaprizov just kept right on going during the postseason. He was one of just a handful of players who were at the top of their game when the series against the Blues began.

In the six-game series loss to the Blues, Kaprizov scored seven goals, including the Wild's first-ever postseason hat trick in a Game 2 victory at Xcel Energy Center. 

Video: STL@MIN, Gm2: Kaprizov grabs 1st playoff hat trick

He also scored twice in Game 5, essentially willing the Wild to a 2-1 lead late in the second period before seeing that advantage melt away late in an eventual loss.

Still, it was the kind of playoff performance seen rarely in these parts.

"He tried putting this team on his back. We saw it in Game 5, that's when I saw it the most," Guerin said. "He literally tried to put this team on his back and carry them, just say, 'You know what guys, I got you, follow me.'

"He's special."

Just how special Kaprizov has been in his first 136 NHL games can be quantified when put into the context of team history.

His 74 goals are 17th most in career franchise history. Sixteen of the 17 in front of him have played at least 100 or more games, in most cases several hundred more. Only Kevin Fiala, who is 14th on the Wild's all-time goals list, has less than 100 additional games.

Fiala has five more goals but has skated in 79 more games -- almost an additional season's worth.

Gaborik's franchise record of 219 goals was accomplished in 502 games. If Kaprizov continues his same goal-scoring pace through 502 games, he'll have 273 goals. Assuming good health next season, Kaprizov will quickly begin rocketing up the team's career points chart as well, where he currently ranks 21st. 

He'll enter the top-20 when he scores his 10th point and ties Kyle Brodziak. Wes Walz and Brent Burns will each be passed a couple of points after that. 

Video: SEA@MIN: Kaprizov records 100th point of year on goal

While 100-point seasons certainly can't be counted on, should Kaprizov reach the century mark in 2022-23, he'd likely move into the top-10 in all-time franchise scoring. 

Another 47-goal season would put him fifth on the Wild's career goals list.

All in just over 2 1/2 seasons worth of games. So while the 2021-22 campaign was all about Kaprizov re-writing the team's single-season record books, those revisions might only be the beginning.

Still, without the playoff success, Kaprizov said the season wasn't nearly as fulfilling as he would have hoped. That's two trips to the postseason for him in two NHL seasons, and two exits following the First Round. 

"If you take away the playoffs, just looking at the season, it was great for myself and for a lot of the players, we had a good season," Kaprizov said through a translator. "But obviously from playoffs, I think we obviously need to improve. Each player can learn from their mistakes. We'll definitely gain experience from this."

This offseason, Kaprizov said he'll go back to Russia and spend some time relaxing with friends and family, hit the lake for some fishing, enjoy a sauna or two and re-charge the batteries before embarking on his offseason routine to build on his tremendous second season in the league.

"Just see my friends and parents. We'll see," Kaprizov said, slowly becoming more comfortable speaking English. "Practice after again a couple weeks maybe."

If what he learned his first offseason is any indication as to what he might take from this one, the NHL should officially be on notice next season.

"Definitely compared to last year going into these playoffs, I definitely wanted to focus a little more. I didn't have the best performance against Vegas last playoffs. So it was something near the end of the season I was thinking about more," Kaprizov said. "Definitely wanted to focus more on this year, getting the right mindset to have a really good run and to put my best foot forward. I definitely felt like I met the moment."


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