Three NHL players we didn’t expect to have a fantastic season in 2020-21

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Kirill Kaprizov (97)

Kirill Kaprizov #97 of the Minnesota Wild. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Amongst all the players in the NHL in 2020-21, there are three that have had fantastic seasons and one that we all might not have seen coming whatsoever.

You know what they say. Expect the unexpected. That’s one thing us sports fans might not reiterate consistently but it’s always something we have to be aware of. These kinds of stories shift the narrative in a calendar year and with that it continues to keep the season and the timeline interesting.

This season we have seen a lot of that. We’ve seen players like Josh Norris and Drake Batherson pair up with Brady Tkachuk at the forefront of the Ottawa Senators’ offense. We’ve seen a player like Max Comtois – a guy who only played 39 games in his first two seasons – come alive for the Anaheim Ducks, leading the team with 33 points (16 G, 17 A) in 55 games.

These are the kinds of players that either make you turn your head to the side dumbfounded or become pleasantly surprised with how far they’ve come to be where they are today.

With that being said, let’s cue the top three players that we might not have expected to have a fantastic season, and we’ll begin with No. 97 playing in St. Paul Minnesota.

Three NHL players that are having unexpected but fantastic seasons in 2020-21

Kirill Kaprizov (97)

Kirill Kaprizov #97 of the Minnesota Wild. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Kirill Kaprizov, F – Minnesota Wild

Believe it or not, but the Minnesota Wild drafted the 24-year-old Russian winger No. 135 overall in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Since then he’s won a Bronze and Silver medal at the World Juniors, he helped lead Russia to Olympic Gold in South Korea in 2018, he pioneered a CSKA Moskva club to the Gagarin Cup in the KHL in 2018/2019, and he continued to accumulate accolades until the Wild finally opted to bring the young stud to the National Hockey League for the start of the 2020-21 season.

Before the rubber puck smacked down on to the ice from the hands of an official, there was plenty of hype surrounding Kirill Kaprizov. With hype however, comes uncertainty. Would he live up to the fanfare he arrived with, or would he simply disappoint fans in his first season?

Travelling overseas to play in the NHL from the KHL is no easy feat. No disrespect to the KHL here, but both leagues are two different animals. However, in his first season as a forward for the Wild, not only has Kaprizov proved to everyone why he is an elite talent, but he also is the future of this organization moving forward.

His agility and deft hands on the puck is just a snapshot of his brilliance. His speed cutting through the neutral zone and weaving around defensemen to generate chances is also a glimpse of what he can do. In the blink of an eye you can either be focusing on Kaprizov entirely or simply lose the winger and be chasing him from the couch.

Kaprizov took his rookie year by storm in every single aspect and, after recording 27 goals and 24 assists for 51 points in 55 games with a plus / minus rating of +10 while averaging 18:18 of total ice time, the 24-year-old is a near-lock for the Calder Trophy and it would be a fitting reward for his sheer brilliance.

And, with the Stanley Cup Playoffs now upon us, Kirill Kaprizov displayed the other side to his game that deserves just as much praise during Game 1 of the Minnesota Wild’s First Round matchup against the Vegas Golden Knights on Sunday, with the forward registering two blocked shots and five hits in his postseason debut as his team struck the first blow of the seven-game series.

This is just the beginning for the Russian wonder kid, too, and that is scary news for the rest of the NHL.

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