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Kaprizov plays big on another big stage

Wild prospect leads Russia with six goals at World Championships

by Julie Robenhymer / Special to

COPENHAGEN, Denmark -- Three years ago, the Minnesota Wild drafted Kirill Kaprizov in the fifth round of the NHL Draft. Since then, he's won a bronze and a silver medal at the World Junior Championships, earning accolades like Best Forward of the tournament while scoring the most goals and having the most points; made three appearances at the KHL All-Star Game and won gold at the Olympics.

Now he finds himself leading Team Russia with six goals in seven games as they head into the quarterfinals at the 2018 IIHF World Championship.

"I'm excited to be here at the world championship," Kaprizov said through a translator. "I practiced with the team last year too, but I didn't make the roster. I was too young. Now, I am excited. We have a very good team and very good players. We will do everything we can here to show we're a good team and deserve to win."

Tweet from @IIHFHockey: #RUSvsSWE From the back of the net straight into Kaprizov's stick, beating @trekronorse to the first goal. So, so good. @russiahockey

Russia finished the preliminary round with a record of 5-0-1-1 with an overtime loss to Czech Republic and a regulation loss to Sweden on Tuesday night that determined seedings in the elimination round. Kaprizov and Team Russia will face off against Team Canada on Thursday at 8 a.m. CT.

Wild Director of Player Personnel Blair Mackasey has been in Denmark to watch this year's tournament and check in on the 21-year-old's development. 

"He's a dynamic offensive player with high end speed and skills and great instincts in the offensive zone," Mackasey said. "He has a nose for the net and can score goals. He competes hard, is effective in traffic and has been a dominant player here on a line with [Pavel] Datsyuk and [Nikita] Gusev."

It's a line that found chemistry during the Olympics, which has carried over to this event as well. Kaprizov said he's trying to learn as much as he can by playing with Datsyuk, the 14-year NHL veteran with two Stanley Cups, a World Championship and an Olympic Gold Medal to his name. 

"The Olympics was my first huge tournament and I was nervous before it started and wasn't sure I would make the roster, but I had a good performance and we won, so it was excellent," Kaprizov said. "I play with Pavel Datsyuk there and now here and he's an amazing player and I am trying to learn everything I can from him so I can get better and be the same kind of player."

Tweet from @IIHFHockey: #RUSvsFRA Kirill Kaprizov nets his second of the game with some help from @Datsyuk13 and @Zaitsev22. @russiahockey is up 4-0 over @hockey_FRA #IIHFWorlds

This past year, Kaprizov tied for the team lead with 40 points (15G, 25A) in 46 games, plus two more goals and eight assists in 19 playoff games as CSKA Moscow made it to the Gagarin Cup Final, but he wasn't satisfied with his performance. He knows he has more to give. 

"I can say that the season was good because we played for the championship, but in the club, my performance wasn't very good," he said. "I wanted to score more goals. I should do everything I can to do my best so I can have a better performance in the future."

But Mackasey wasn't as critical of the 5-foot-10, 190-pound winger saying he doesn't need much to be NHL ready except time to adapt to the North American game and smaller ice surface and to get stronger physically. 

His NHL debut still might be a few years away as Kaprizov is under contract for another two years with CSKA Moscow.

"I signed a three-year contract last season in Moscow," he said. "After that we can speak about a job in the NHL. Right now, I just want to play good and help the team win another gold medal."

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