Maybe we should just give the Calder Trophy to Kirill Kaprizov now and be done with it.
Okay, so that might be a bit of an overreaction given that we’re just a couple of weeks into the 2020-21 NHL season, but there is no doubt that Minnesota Wild stud Kirill Kaprizov has been the standout rookie through the first two weeks or so of the year.
He has been a revelation to put it quite frankly and, proving to be just what this stagnant franchise that has long been mired in hockey obscurity so badly needed, Kaprizov is breathing new life into the State of Hockey while also absolutely taking the NHL by storm in the process.
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We witnessed the sheer magic of the Russian genius yet again on Thursday who willed his team to a big 5-3 win over the surging LA Kings, who had won three of five prior to last night, and it was another reminder of just how insanely talented Kaprizov is.
The 23-year-old did a good job of keeping the puck in the zone and then dumping it in, before crashing to the net and burying a terrific cross-ice pass from Marcus Johansson to open up a 3-0 lead for the Wild in a frantic first period. It was Kaprizov’s second goal of the season and the rookie did an excellent job of lifting the puck over LA Kings goalie Jonathan Quick.
There were other standout moments for the left winger, however, including a crushing hit in the second period that proved he’s not just a flashy one-trick pony, and this was arguably his best game of the season with the rookie all over the ice and making a dominant impact in all three zones in 17:51 of total ice time as the Wild withstood a fightback from the Kings to improve to 5-3-0 on the year.
Don’t be surprised if Kirill Kaprizov wins the Calder Trophy in 2020-21
Boasting slick hands, a dazzling treasure chest of skill and an elite hockey IQ, Kaprizov has already established that he’s got the talent to just open a game up and change the momentum of a game with a single jaw-dropping play, and he’s the offensive and creative spark that the Minnesota Wild have craved for years.
You can put forward a strong argument that the Wild haven’t had a player of Kaprizov’s ilk since Marian Gaborik, and there is no doubt that Kirill Kaprizov is built to succeed for the foreseeable in the National Hockey League, and I can’t remember ever getting this excited about a rookie when he has the puck on his stick because anything can happen.
With two goals and five assists for seven points in eight games with a plus / minus rating of +5 in 18:44 of ATOI, not to mention a CF% of 54.3 and a very impressive oZS% of 63.1% in addition to two blocked shots, five hits and two Takeaways, Kaprizov has just been dominant and he leads all rookies in points with seven through the first couple of weeks of the 2020-21 season.
Now, it is still early and eight games is a relatively small sample size, even in a shortened 56-game season, but it is obvious that Kaprizov is the early contender for the Calder Trophy and there is no evidence to suggest that he’s going to slow down. Yes, he may hit a brick wall at some point as is the case with all rookies, but he has the confidence and the ridiculous natural ability to drag himself out of it when he gets to that point.
Plus, with the Minnesota Wild looking a good bet to make the postseason out of the West Division, Kirill Kaprizov has the benefit of playing on a half-decent team and, while Alexis Lafreniere will likely kick on now having recorded his first career NHL goal on Thursday, Quinton Byfield should be unleashed on the NHL soon by the LA Kings, while the likes of Ty Smith and Josh Norris have also enjoyed positive starts to their rookie years, there is just something special about Kaprizov.
Therefore, and while still early, I feel rather confident in stating now that the Calder Trophy could well end up in the possession of Kirill Kaprizov come the end of the 2020-21 season. After all, he’s made a seamless transition to the National Hockey League, he’s playing big minutes for the Minnesota Wild, he has elite skill that allows him to carve a game open and dominate and he’s also physical enough to really flourish in the best league on the planet, so it would not be surprising if he keeps riding this rapid upwards trajectory and ends up being crowned the rookie of the year. He’s just that good and the best is yet to come.