ST. PAUL -- Paul Fenton went to Moscow to see the kid, stayed for the borscht and returned to Minnesota confident Kirill Kaprizov will be NHL-ready for the Wild after the Russian superstar plays out his contract in the Kontinental Hockey League.
The Wild general manager traveled overseas to scout Kaprizov, 21, in the prospect’s realm and was impressed by how the dynamic winger conducted himself on and off the ice.
“He’s a nice young man,” Fenton said Wednesday, Nov. 14. “Understands English. He’s still trying to articulate himself, but I think he’s on the right path. He’s going to be a terrific player for us. His skill level is as good as anybody that we have. He’s got the ability to be a natural goal scorer.”
Kaprizov is under contract for CSKA Moscow for the next 18 months. The Wild can have informal talks with him and his agent but cannot buy him out.
Drafted 135th overall in the fifth round of the 2015 Entry Draft by former GM Chuck Fletcher, Kaprizov impressed Fenton enough to convince the first-year personnel boss he could be an impact player this season.
“I’d be excited if he was on our team now, but the maturity he’s going to have in another 18 months should be even that much better,” Fenton said. “We’re going to see more of a finished product.”
The Hockey News in September rated Kaprizov as the No. 2 NHL prospect.
“Speedy, great hands, amazing shot, incredible vision, creative, elusive, hard-working two-way forward,” the magazine described Kaprizov.
He could be the sniper Minnesota has been looking for since losing Marian Gaborik to free agency a decade ago. In 24 games with CSKA Moscow, Kaprizov has 10 goals among 17 points and is plus-20. He also showcased his scoring touch during the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, scoring five goals in six games to help the Olympic Athletes From Russia win gold.
Fenton saw Kaprizov score twice in the KHL and also scouted him at the Karjala Cup tournament in Helsinki for a total of five games.
“He has a smile on face all the time; you can tell that he loves the game,” Fenton said. “He’s so smart. He really sees the play happen before anything transpires. That’s the most fascinating part.”
Fenton did not get a chance to meet Kaprizov’s parents but was able to have dinner with him in Moscow and chat him up later in Finland. “Had borscht a couple of times; I like it,” Fenton said.